‘What a pain!’

‘What a pain!’

I remember hearing, as I was preparing for my wedding (now over 20 years ago), that a comfortable pair of shoes is a must. If your feet hurt, it shows in your face—and that will be captured forever in the photos of your special day.

Whether the pain’s in your feet, your head or your joints, it’s a pain—and it’s likely to affect other parts of your body and life. It can be difficult to keep perspective when you are in pain. And it can be tough to find any value in the experience. This also applies when you aren’t experiencing the pain yourself, but it’s a loved one who is hurting—and you hurt for them.

Both my daughter and I suffer from chronic migraines. We’ve been trying for the past year to get her headaches under control so that she can be a “normal” teenager. It amazes me how tuned into her pain I feel as her mother. When she’s having a bad day, my mood is much different from when she’s headache-free and able to be her natural bright and fun-loving self.

m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The purpose of pain

Pain can rob us of some of the enjoyment of life, yet it’s there for a reason. Without pain, we wouldn’t know when something is wrong. Those who suffer from Hansen’s disease (leprosy) often lose feeling—including sensations of pain—in their extremities. This can lead to problems related to falls, burns, injuries and infections that one with sensitivity to pain would notice—and care for—much earlier.

But really, who wants to be in pain—and what can pain teach us? Jesus suffered greatly in the events leading to his death. He even cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34, NRSV). He chose to share in our humanity by becoming one of us and died a horrible death on the cross. So there must be something of value to be found in pain.

I know that I’ve felt forsaken during some of my worst migraines. I find myself praying, “Lord, help me,” over and over during an episode.  When I come through the worst of it, I change the prayer to “Oh, thank you, Lord!”

Six painful lessons

So, what has pain taught me? What value do I find in pain? Here are a few things I can think of:

  1. Life can hurt, but God is faithful and will be with us through painful experiences.
  2. Be gentle with others who are hurting, even when we can’t see the cause of their pain. Every single person carries some sort of pain.
  3. Light follows darkness, just as the new life of resurrection followed Jesus’ death.
  4. The valleys of life help us appreciate the mountaintop experiences.
  5. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and seek out comfortable people and places whenever possible. Don’t make poor choices that add unnecessary pain to your life.
  6. Smile, even when you’re hurting. It really can make you feel better—if only momentarily—and you’ll take a better photo, too!

What have you learned from pain? What value is there in it? I invite you to share your answers with me and other readers.

Look for the upcoming July issue of Every Day Catholic. It’s about coping with chronic illness and pain. I’m working on it now and look forward to bringing it to you!

Feature Photo: Sharron Goodyear / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

 
 

About the Author

Joan McKamey has served in many capacities in her 15 years with Franciscan Media. She is currently the managing editor of Catholic Update, a monthly publication for adult faith formation of individuals and small groups. She also draws on her years as a parish catechetical leader in her columns for the monthly e-newsletter Faith Formation Update. She is married and is raising a teenage daughter.