We were created to feel pain.
Think about it. Pain protects us. When we touch a hot fireplace, we pull back quickly in pain. The swift response keeps us from getting badly burned. The shooting pain in your back sends a message that you need to rest and treat it. These signals force us to respond in a certain way to avoid a second helping of it.
There is a condition called congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) in which a person cannot feel physical pain. I read a story about a gentleman named Steven Pete who was diagnosed with CIP and he said that as a toddler, he chewed off about a quarter of his tongue while teething. As a child he broke his leg several times and was in a cast off and on until he was about 12. And now, as an adult, he has severe arthritis and although it’s not painful, it’s often hard for him to move around.
People with CIP tend to die young because pain is important for survival. Feeling pain and acknowledging it keeps us from experiencing more pain. Isn’t that ironic? Facing the pain head-on gives us the knowledge of what it is and helps us recognize what we want to avoid in the future.
So what happens when we don’t allow ourselves to feel pain? What if we numb it with painkillers, an ice pack or even denial? When we numb the pain, we can’t fully recognize and address it.
We have an opioid crisis in the U.S. Drugs like oxycodone (sold as OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (sold as Vicodin and Norco), and fentanyl (which is a really dangerous drug because it’s created to resemble opiates such as opium-derived morphine and heroin) have caused a massive wave of overdoses in our country over the last 20 years. The potency and availability of these substances, despite their high risk of addiction and overdose, have made them popular both as medical treatments and as recreational drugs. Fentanyl alone, being 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, caused about 200 overdose deaths per day in 2017. (Info taken from Wikipedia; sources noted there.)
Opioids are proof that people are desperate to numb the pain in their lives. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I interpret trouble as intense challenges, heartache and disappointment and we all experience these things.
Let me break this down.
Hurt is defined as “physical injury or harm” and pain is defined as “physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.” So hurt is the act of getting injured, and pain is the anguish or distress we feel because of the injury. When a child comes to us with a skinned knee and says they’ve been hurt, we clean up their wound, put an antibiotic ointment on it and seal it with a band-aid to help ease the pain and start the healing process.
I often think of what I would look like if our wounds didn’t heal over the years. What if we had to live with the physical part of the hurt from our past? I’ll tell you what this would look like for me.
I would have a hole in the bottom of my head because I skated up a homemade bicycle ramp when I was young and fell flat on my chin (and thought I was dying due to the amount of blood that was draining out of me). I would have a big wound on the bottom of my foot from the giant splinter I inherited while barefoot-surfing on my deck during my elementary years. I would have open bloody sores on my arms and legs from spills I have taken over the years. There would be cuts in my fingers and bruises all over my body from running into tables, falling on my bike, and mis-judging steps and drop offs. If we didn’t have the ability to heal and had to wear the hurt from our past, we would scare the living daylights out of each other.
Let’s translate this into the emotional realm. If we can grasp this idea that emotional hurt (the act of someone wounding us with words or actions) is inevitable and pain is the necessary scale that weighs and registers the level of our suffering and discomfort, we see the power behind this relationship. If hurt is simply the act of being wronged, it is a temporary state. Just like we heal physically, we were meant to heal emotionally.
Hurt, by its very definition, is not meant to be held onto because it is simply something that happened, not a lingering condition. If someone hurts us we experience pain, but the act of them hurting us is not meant to have a long-term effect on us. We can recognize that we’ve been hurt but it’s not something that was given to or even forced on us.
This is so freeing because it means that hurt is not something we have to carry with us throughout our lives! We can acknowledge it, but it literally has no power over us.
And here’s where it gets really good. We think of pain as a negative thing, but what if we looked at is as simply a filter to process hurt? Pain, if utilized correctly, can teach us valuable lessons and keep us from repeating the same mistakes over and over. Pain is meant to be felt, meant to be addressed, and most importantly, meant to be healed. If we navigate through pain in an honest and healthy way, it will ALWAYS make us stronger. If we embrace and face the discomfort it opens the door to growth. And I don’t know about you, but I happen to love that word.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.