RELIGION: Pain though unpleasant, keeps our lives balanced

There is some trauma that just can't be forgotten. Some wounds from which we will bear the scars for the rest of our lives. But even though the scars are there and the pain -- to some extent -- remains, not all that results from those things is necessarily unhealthy.

Over the last couple of weeks I have related the stories of the heart-wrenching deaths of two young people close to me and the deep psychological pain it has brought to the lives of so many people. It occurs to me in retrospect, though, that the pain caused by these tragic events isn't completely detrimental.

You see, the nature of pain has certain benefits. And we would be remiss if we did not point them out. Because pain, like many of the "unpleasant" blessings we have been given, is an important ingredient which keeps our lives balanced and healthy. Here are three reasons why.

First, pain is proof that we are truly alive. This may sound trite, but it is true. The only people who don't experience pain are "dead." They may suffer from emotional detachment because of some past trauma. Or they may be spiritually dead, unbothered by the immorality in their lives. Or they may suffer from a disease, such as leprosy. (One of the symptoms of leprosy is the loss of feeling. The result is that wounds and pain are often ignored, resulting in infections, necrosis and death.) Most of us would agree that we want to be emotionally healthy, spiritually alive and, hopefully, not have parts of our bodies falling off.

Second, pain is a signal that something is wrong. A few years ago I spent an entire weekend ignoring a dull pain in my gut until, on Monday morning, the pain was so intense that I had to go to the ER. By then it was almost too late. I had ignored an infected appendix for so long that it had ruptured and the result was, well, dramatic. Pain, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, is a sign that something is amiss and needs to be analyzed and addressed.

Finally, pain can motivate us to deeper spiritual lives. As I said last week, the angst at the death of an innocent young woman is still with me and probably will be for the rest of my life. Events such as the one I described often cause us to question the Creator about the reasons for those events.

We would not be in bad company. Job, in his pain, had questions for God. Habakkuk the prophet had questions for God. The Apostle Paul asked God to remove a problem that had been bothering him. In each of these cases, the person with the questions for God was drawn closer to Him through the process of the search for answers. The same can be true for us.

We may have to live with pain that never goes away. But we can live with it.


Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and is currently a large-vehicle transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (Okay, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at dougchas[email protected] . The opinions expressed are those of the author.