This is the fourth of the Five Givens In Life based on the book The Five Things We Cannot Change…and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them by David Richo. I’ve explored the past three in the most recent episodes and how each of them affect and impact my life. This fourth one, though, whew, it’s another tough one for me to unpack. I watched my husband struggle with chronic pain for years. I’ve had my own share of pain, before and after his death. So, talking about pain is not new for me; it’s all over this podcast. But it sure seems callous to say, “Hey, pain is just part of life.” My thoughts go in all kinds of directions with this one, to the point where I’m not even really sure where to start or what to say…or not say. Honestly, I hate this one. I know, hate is a strong word. And I feel very strongly about it.
So, let me start by giving you some insight to what the author says about the fact that pain is a part of life. He begins by saying that it’s our human nature to want to find some positive value to make the suffering of pain worth accepting. I suppose it’s our way of trying to make sense of it all in our world. We have to make it make sense. But what if it doesn’t?
We do know that pain is the greatest catalyst to meaningful growth and change. When I talked about “Given” number two, Things Don’t Always Go As Planned in episode 74, I said, “The things in life, especially the things we didn’t plan and the ones that bring us great pain, are the very things that make us grow in ways we otherwise never could. With compassion and tenderness, and insight and trust, with inner strength and calm peace. But that certainly doesn’t mean we welcome the pain or even the opportunity for personal growth.”
Listen, I used to think “growth” was a word used by New Age religions in order to have some sort of personal evolution towards nirvana - an ascension to a state where you are released to perfect quietude, freedom, highest happiness, and total peace of mind. In the Buddhist context, nirvana refers to realization of non-self and emptiness. Other religions believe it’s the state when your soul is released or liberated from your body. Now, I’m not going to get into what all the New Age religions believe or don’t believe or how they define non-self or emptiness, because I haven’t studied New Age religions enough to opine on it. But what I will say is that growth and transformation is most definitely doctrine within the Christian religion. It is Biblical.
I’ll refer back to the most-clear scripture on this, Romans 12:2, “…be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Our Creator must have wanted us to hear this for two reasons: 1) We must need our minds renewed and transformed, and 2) We can have our minds renewed and transformed. Any new information or understanding does change us. New information may make you consider other opinions or beliefs. New understanding may make you change your position or stance on one thing or another. Even if ever so slightly, this will bring growth. Because every time you open up for change, you grow.
Okay, so back to pain being a part of life. There are all kinds of pain we can experience, right? Physical pain - and that could be minimal or major, temporary or chronic. And everything in between. There’s psychological pain that include mood disorders, anxiety, depression, addictions, obsession, compulsion. There’s emotional pain due to losses in life - loss of loved ones, loss of material possessions, loss of a job or financial security, loss of love and relationships. But there’s also emotional pain due to abandonment, rejection, malicious behavior of others, betrayals, and abuse of all kinds. And yes, all of this is a part of life. It’s not something we can get away from. It just is. And according to David Richo, we suffer much when we’re not able to accept that there will be a myriad of things that will bring pain into our lives. He says, “It will be hard to live happily if the laws of life cannot be taken in stride.”
He points out that the need to know or understand why we have suffered pain is part of the ego that needs to be in control. Again, it’s our human nature to want to understand in order to find some positive value to make the suffering of pain worth accepting. Our way of making sense of it. We have to make it make sense. I can see where that’s been true for me. If I can just understand what happened or why it happened, then maybe I could be settled with it. But to not know or understand puts me in a very vulnerable place. I’m not in control. There is no resolution, no closure. I’m just hanging out here having to trust, having to have faith, that the pain is going to be used for my good. It is a mystery. Until it’s not.
I can remember early on people telling me I was going to be so much stronger because of all the pain and suffering I was going through. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about becoming stronger at that point. I didn’t want to grow from my experience. Side note: don’t say that to someone who’s just experienced a loss or traumatic event. It’s not really helpful. Perhaps well meaning, but not necessarily helpful. I didn’t want to grow. But one day, I looked up and I had. In an enormous and meaningful way. I can now list at least one hundred ways in which that pain was used for my good. But that only occurred because at some point I opened myself up to accepting myself and all my limitations. I accepted the fact that I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. I opened myself up to the acceptance and awareness that I had lots of ways of thinking that needed changing. And I knew I needed my heart and mind renewed by God. I knew that the pain was what He was using to bring me closer to Him to create a deeper, more rich relationship with Him. But it also opened my eyes to see life in a way I had never seen before.
It reminds me of the time my youngest son got glasses for the first time. He was getting headaches at school when he was trying to look at the teacher’s work on the board at the front of the class. When he went outside for the first time with his glasses on, he said, “Oh my gosh, look at the leaves on the tree. There’s so much definition. I can see the edges, and I can see the veins on the leaf.” It broke my heart to think that he couldn’t see that before. And he didn’t know any different because he’d never been able to see that clearly before. It’s kind of like that with meaningful growth through pain. Until then, you really have no idea that you need it, you have no idea what you’re missing, and you have no idea how much better things could be because of new understandings that lead to new growth. Yes, there really is clarity on the other side of things.
So, what would I say to my friends that are experiencing some sort of pain - be it physical, mental, or emotional? I’d say, lean in, open your heart and mind to understanding more of what the pain is exposing. Fear? Need for safety and security? Lack of trust and faith? Anger? Hopelessness? What is the pain bringing up in you? And then let Jesus draw you in closer to heal those wounds only He can heal. Let His love and care be the new lens through which you view things. Let Him bring the clarity. You may not ever understand what happened or WHY something happened. You may not have all the answers you want. But that’s okay. Know that it’s okay to not know and still be okay. Even though you may feel vulnerable because you’re not in control, when you lean in to trusting Jesus in it all, you can be sure you’ll see your life in a whole new way. You’ll think differently. Act differently. Believe differently. Hope differently. And probably even worship differently.
Friend, pain is a part of life. You know this. We cannot run or hide from it. But you can decide - even ahead of time - that you’re going to believe it’s something you can face head-on and accept that it’s part of the human experience here on earth. And that you have a Heavenly Father that cares deeply to see you through it. He is the reason we know without a shadow of a doubt that our pain is most definitely used for our good.
Friend, if you’re experiencing pain in your life right now and don’t know how you can accept it in order to be in a place of peace about it, I’d love to help you. Did you know the things that you think are what are creating the way you experience your life? What if you were able to make some shifts in your thinking that radically changed the way your pain is affecting your life? This is what I do as a Life Coach. Will you let me help you?
I’ve put a link in the show notes to my calendar to book at 30-minute discovery call if you’re interested in finding out more about Life Coaching and how it could help you. Or, you can visit my website tricizody.com and send me an email there.
Have a great week, friends. See you next Wednesday for the next episode of Another Beautiful Life podcast.