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Pain: We can’t live with it; We can’t live without it. Emotional pain is a strange beast. It’s both annoying and essential. We spend our lives ignoring it or coping with it or finding relief from it. But pain is also our greatest ally even if it is a necessary evil.
Fear of pain keeps us from harm. Pain keeps us on the road instead of driving into a ditch. Or if we do slip into a ditch, it keeps us from driving headlong into a tree. Or, if we hit a tree, it helps us brake or turn to lessen the impact.
Don’t Avoid Pain At All Costs
When pain becomes extreme, it can flip over and push a person toward death. People consider suicide when their anguish becomes unbearable. Whether you are aiming for the tree or avoiding the tree, the goal can be the same: avoid pain. But there is a difference: suicide attempts to end the pain at all costs.
You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” That’s exactly what suicide does. It’s overkill. We need the pain to warn us that something is wrong. But the suicidal person wrongly assumes there is no possible relief.
With God, there is always a path to healing. But the restorative journey isn’t always one that everyone is willing to take. If you’re stubborn enough to choose your way over God’s way, then you are more likely to end up off-road and into a tree.
If you’d like more help with unbearable pain, consider this helpful resource for stories to help you become hopeful.
Coping is helpful as a short-term solution. If you fall and cut your leg, any first-aid is a balm used to promote healing. It won’t help much without the body’s innate ability to fight infection and replace damaged skin.
The same is true spiritually. Whatever you can do to stop your pain doesn’t compare to what Jesus can do. Therefore, it’s important that you endure your discomfort long enough to complete the healing process.
A suicidal person places too high a premium on the short-term outlook. They look at their life through unrealistic expectations. For example, if you want to run a marathon (26.2 miles) in an hour, it’s not going to happen and you’ll stress yourself if you believe you can. If you keep trying and failing, you might drive yourself to suicide if you take the challenge too seriously. Most situations in life are not life-or-death.
How is your life going? Are you stuck in despair? Here are some options to consider:
- Bring your expectations down to somewhere realistic.
- Increase your resources such as time or energy.
- If you want something to happen that isn’t happening, trust God that He knows it’s not the right time yet.
- If something is happening that you don’t want, trust God with any loss you’re experiencing.
Don’t Embrace Pain At All Costs
If what you want is out of reach, adjust your goals to something more manageable so you can enjoy life in the present. If you can’t run a marathon at world-record speeds, then try running enough for your health and enjoyment.
Do what you must to reduce your level of emotional distress. You can’t put your life in its proper perspective when you are in excruciating pain. But try to endure it long enough so you can identify what is wrong and find a path forward. When you’re in pain, God is probably trying to teach you something.
If your desire is realistic and God-honoring, then it’s worth pursuing even if you must first fail many times to reach your goal. Sometimes the path to a hopeful, uplifting place means experiencing the bottom of a pit first. Keep in mind:
- The pit isn’t bottomless.
- If you can change your thinking (stop being so stubborn), you will probably find that path forward.
God doesn’t promise He will answer your prayers how you want them to be answered. Sometimes we must wait on Him for direction. Other times we must keep trying as best as we know how. The secret to reducing your pain is to enjoy the journey: enjoy the pursuit of something great more than requiring a specific result in a fixed time period.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.