Make life easier. Make it more convenient. Get more comfortable. Make everything faster. Get it now. These are the tenants of the culture pushed on people these days. It touts the possibility of a life without pain. The products companies sell are all about returning comfort, pleasure, and ease in exchange for money. Aside from some distinct exceptions, a majority of world commerce is focused on the mitigation of pain and difficulty. While we are always encouraged to help those burdened with undue suffering, we must also recognize that suffering is a fact of life. It is necessary to experience all of the other aspects of life and it builds character and virtue if we react in the right way.
Recently on Morning Air, Glen Lewerenz welcomed Dr. Jim Schroeder onto the show to discuss the different ways we experience pain, how we should view those experiences, and why pain is an integral part of life.
“Nobody likes the experience of pain,” began Dr. Schroeder. “And we understand that. But if we run away from it, if we hide from it, and we just try to avoid it, we’re never really going to understand why God designated it to be there in our lives.”
At its physiological core, pain is a messenger for us, and a tremendously important one. It lets us know that not something is not as it should be. It might just be letting us know that we should be monitoring a symptom, but it could also be telling us that something is seriously wrong: a torn ligament, a broken bone, fatigue, exhaustion, mental anguish, too much work.
Dr. Schroeder listed the three ways in which we experience pain:
- Physical pain – Could be the result of any number of things that cause accidents or injuries. Generally, straightforward injuries with clear insight into what type of solutions are possible.
- Emotional pain – Could result from heartbreak, severe disappointment, shock and dismay. Difficult to diagnose and treat. Very often, time is the best healer, and the amount of time required depends on the person and the traumatic event that caused the pain.
- Cognitive pain – Pain of the mind is often caused by stress, anxiety, and overworking. Our brains, while capable of a great many things, still have limits. Outworking their capacity for mental comprehension can cause them to burn out, a form of shutting down that causes all sorts of problems in other aspects of one’s life.
All humans experience these things. So how do we deal with them? The world says that we should cover them up and mask them. Layer them in comforts and pleasures and hopefully, that will muffle the pain so that we can effectively ignore it. Loneliness and insecurity can be masked with money. Sadness can be hidden through social media. Heartbreak and loss can be suffocated with substance abuse. But none of those “solutions” address the source or heal the pain.
Besides being given the comfortable solution to our problems, we may also be familiar with the “suck it up” method. Are you going through a difficult time? Well, you can throw a pity party or you can suck it up! While at times, this may be effective and even necessary, there are times when we should not ignore the things that are affecting our health. He doesn’t encourage going the pity party route, but he does encourage being vulnerable to the people who love us.
“It’s actually pride that gets in the way of us acknowledging when pain is important,” said Dr. Schroeder. He recalled the time when he was finishing up training during his internship and he was so stressed out that it began manifesting itself in physical ways. He was experiencing such intense anxiety that he would get headaches, dizziness, and tightness in his chest. But he wouldn’t tell anybody, not even his wife. Of all the health risks that Dr. Schroeder was running, he admitted that his greatest mistake was not being vulnerable.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
We should reorient the way that we look at pain, especially if it is unavoidable and necessary in life. Instead of viewing pain as tragic and meaningless, we should see it as divine correspondence. Pay attention to what He is calling our attention to. We have become so desensitized to so much that God is shouting at us through the suffering, “Wake up!”
Tune in to Morning Air weekdays at 5am CT