“So on a scale of one to ten, how would you describe the pain in your knee?”
The nurse and I exchanged wide-eyed wonderment.
“Mom, if it’s only a two, then why are we here to get a cortisone shot? I saw your face the last time your knee pained you. That wasn’t a ‘two’ look. Let’s think about this again. I put childbirth at a 10. Keeping that in mind, now what number would you give your pain?”
“Okay. An eight then.”
PAIN IS NO JOKE!
Physical pain is serious. The year our younger son grew several inches, I watched him crawl agonizingly up the stairs to his bedroom at the end of the day. Growing pains are no joke!
Pain can be throbbing, aching, piercing. After surgery we are told to “stay ahead of the pain” and not let it build up.
The suffering from pain is visible to all. I could always tell when my friend had one of his migraine headaches. Even though he never complained, the anguish in his eyes broke my heart.
Sometimes there are no medications to ease the pain, to numb it. Those who live with chronic pain have the fear of building up a toleration to pain killers or becoming dependent on them to the point they can’t live a normal life. Pain management clinics attempt to give relief, but in order to avoid addiction, many people suffer through the punishing agony.
The Scriptures always use one reference point when speaking of suffering and pain. It’s called childbirth. Isaiah is pretty graphic in chapters 13 and 21 when he compares it with the horrors of war and destruction.
Yet, to read about “natural childbirth” in some books, where pain is discussed simply as “discomfort,” one would think a few practiced techniques would serve to alleviate or manage it. However, the many women who have actually experienced childbirth can attest to its true nature. After all, who can really determine how painful something is… for someone else.
When I think of the ultimate pain sufferer, I think of Job and all of his afflictions. He tells us his “gnawing pains never rest” (30:17). And in Psalm 38 David talks about his “searing pain” … the pain that is ever with him… his iniquity. It’s the same reference to “Incurable pain” in Isaiah 17:11… the pain of sin that seemingly has no cure.
I’m always amazed at some people’s tolerance for pain. Some have had to live with emotional pain so long that they’ve become numb to it. And some have lived so long with the pain of sin that they don’t even acknowledge they have a problem.
But there are also people who can seemingly tolerate incredible physical pain. Usually my dad would numb someone’s mouth when he was about to do a dental procedure, especially oral surgery. I was completely shocked when one woman refused the anesthetic and calmly sat through a rather gory session. Of course I was the one who passed out onto the floor from the surgery I was assisting… and from the sympathetic agony I felt for her.
There is another pain we all are acquainted with: “Don’t be such a pain!” “Do you have to be such a pain in the neck?” Ah, yes… that irritating sibling or colleague.
I have been known to say, “Would it pain you so much to…” even though it’s considered an “archaic” phrase. I guess I’m older than I thought… and it “pains me” to have to say that!
But we are also encouraged to “take pains” to do something with great effort and diligence. Some tasks are so exacting that they are “painstaking.”
Doctors search for the source of pain. Where does it hurt? Does it hurt when I do this?
But when the pain is so deep inside, it’s hard to comfort someone. That’s the emotional pain, the sorrow, the grief and torment that wear us out. As that popular song of long ago said over and over, “It hurts so bad!”
When we can’t get to the root of this pain, when the person can’t even explain the hurt, then we do whatever we can to help bear the pain, the burden, hoping we aren’t the cause of it or aren’t adding to it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of wordlessly being there.
How can we measure someone’s pain and suffering? Oh, there are actual charts the legal advocates use to refer to the suffering, not just physical suffering but also things such as dealing with fear, insomnia, grief, worry, and even the loss of the enjoyment of life. But can all the money in the world really cure these things?
GOD AND PAIN
Jesus understood pain. His was the ultimate task of “no pain, no gain” when He realized that without His suffering we would gain nothing. He knew the root meaning of the word pain: payment, punishment, price.
Isaiah 53 lists all of the physical and mental pain our Lord endured. And yet what did He get from the Judge for all His pain and suffering? Nothing for Himself. Everything for us!
Oh, yes. God understands pain. And He promises to be there with us in our sorrow and suffering.
But does God feel pain? Does it pain God to see how the world rejects Him and His message of grace? It has to. After all, He took the pains to make sure our salvation was complete… the painstaking efforts of His beloved Son… the pain from scourging and crucifixion… the anguish taking on the sins of the whole world that caused Him to sweat blood in Gethsemane.
Of course it pains Him! But that doesn’t stop Him from caring… deeply… completely.
Just as He healed those who suffered from severe physical pain (Matt. 4:24), He promises that when I am finally with Him, face to face, He will wipe away every tear and there will be no more death or grieving or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4).
And when I often pass by that cross without even thinking of the pain, even though I can only imagine His agony, the impact doesn’t always hit me… stay with me. I forget just what a pain I was and still can be to Him.