Tag Archives: healing

Hurt versus Harm

No one wants to experience pain. And yet, life seems to be full of times of challenge and difficulty that cause discomfort, anxiety, and yes, pain. Everyday people come into my office because the pain they are experiencing has become more than they feel they can bear. Pain comes in so many different shapes, sizes, and forms. And most of us will do about anything possible to avoid pain. And indeed, there are some pains that must be avoided at all cost. Touching a hot stove is something I only need to do once! This kind of pain is harmful. It warns of danger, but it does nothing beyond that.

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However, there is some pain that cannot be avoided so easily and serves a purpose beyond just warning. In fact, there is pain that is actually good for us. For example, sore muscles after lifting weights, burning lungs after a good run, or the discomfort experienced when rehabbing an injury. These situations hurt, but they are good for us. The short term pain results in long term gain. One of my favorite examples of this is concept is the dentist. Eating sugary foods, forgetting to brush, and skipping the floss might feel good for a while but results in cavities causing harm in the long run. Going to the dentist, on the other hand, often hurts, but it is goof for us by keeping our teeth healthy. Sometimes avoiding short term pain, like not going to the dentist, actually causes long term harm.

I avoided the dentist for 5 years. When a rotten tooth finally demanded I go to the dentist, I ended up needing six cavities filled and a tooth implant which required surgery. My dentist and I got to know each other very well! Since that time I’ve kept my regular appointments and have only needed one procedure in the last five years. Now I try to see my dentist at church more than at his office! Here’s the point: hurt is temporary, harm is permanent. Temporary hurt to achieve or maintain health is well worth it to avoid the long term harm. This is true of dentists, of exercise, of health in general. And it is certainly true of emotions as well.

Denial, blame shifting, stuffing, and other ways to avoid acknowledging and dealing with the emotional pain in our lives feels better than facing it head on, but it all too often causes much more harm in the long run. Dealing with emotional pain definitely hurts, but it is the only way to achieve emotional health. One of the truths that I hope and pray all of my clients are able to cling to in the midst of their deepest and darkest times is that the pain will not last forever and that emotional pain is not fatal not matter how overwhelming it may feel. Healing hurts. It just does. Whether it is the pain of working out to lose weight, the pain of a teeth cleaning, recovering after surgery, or facing an emotional wound.

So when life’s emotional wounds seem to big to bear, remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians. Paul, a man who endured more pain and suffering than most. He was whipped 5 times, beaten three times and stoned once. He was shipwrecked three times, run out of cities, homeless, without food, thrown in jail, and even rejected by his own people. Not to mention the “thorn” he prayed God would take from him that never was removed. Paul knew pain! And yet Paul writes these words, “We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 16-18)

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Temporary hurt in exchange for long term health is a great trade! Momentary troubles that give us eternal glory are well worth it! Yes, we need to avoid the things that harm us, but so often we fail to recognize that hurt is not harm and that harm is actually the result of avoiding hurt. Face the hurt. Deal directly with the pain. It is temporary, it will not overwhelm, and you will come out on the other side better for it.

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Thoughts from the Office: Robin Williams and Dealing with Pain

Some things just seem to shake people up more than others. The news of Robin Williams’ suicide this past week seems to be one of those things. It seems that for many, hearing the news of his death has become one of those moments you never forget, one of those moments that you speak about with the phrase, “I remember where I was when…” I’ve had several of those moments in my life. The first was the Challenger exploding. The Berlin Wall coming down, declaring war on Iraq, and of course 911 are all seared into my memory like a branding iron on an animal’s hide.

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Honestly, I’m not sure if this will become one of those moments or not, but I do know that I will long remember the way others have responded to this tragedy. I do not often write directly about my life as a counselor, but I assure you that it influences every aspect of my life, including my writing. I learn much more from my clients than they ever learn from me. Each client’s unique story, perspective, brokenness, and road towards healing inspires and challenges my own journey. And so in light of that, let me step out of the norm and share a few thoughts from the office…

Everyone hurts. Pain is a part of life, an unfortunate part, but a part nonetheless. This means that when you are hurting, you are not alone. Others have been there, some are there with you now, and many will be there after you. Even the Bible is full of people familiar with sadness, anxiety, and pain. Elijah begged to die. So did Job. Moses was scared to talk to Pharaoh. David sat in sackcloth and ashes. Remember even Jesus was called the man of sorrows. God knows what you are going through.

Pain is temporary. This one is often difficult for my many chronic clients who have battled depression or anxiety for more days, months, and years than they wish to count. But every new day holds the hope and possibility of a good day. And hope is a powerful thing. Without holding onto the hope of a good day coming with the next sunrise, pain with surely be permanent. Remember, though there may be pain in the night, joy comes in the morning.

Everyone needs help. It always saddens me when I discover how long a client has been suffering in silence before they finally found the courage or reached a place of desperation large enough to make a phone call. We are not meant to walk through life alone and we are certainly not meant to walk through painful times alone. We all need help. We all need support. We all need each other. When you are experiencing times of pain or despair, please reach out. Call a friend, a pastor, or a counselor. Believe me when I say that there are things that can be done to ease the pain the bring joy back to your life.

Be a steward of your pain. Pain is a gift. Yes, you read that correctly. It is a gift. Pain teaches. It points us to places in our lives that need our attention. Pain inspires growth. It allows us to see where change and maturity are required. And when you’ve been through a painful time and come out on the other side, it is a gift to share that victory with others. Allow your pain to make you compassionate instead of jaded, sensitive instead of stubborn, victorious instead of a victim, and patient instead of prideful.

I have read many blogs in the aftermath of Robin Williams’ death. Some advocating for awareness that depression is a disease and needs to be treated as such, some arguing that suicide is a choice and should never been described as anything else. Regardless of beliefs regarding suicide (and I know I have mine), I believe we can all agree on one thing: it is tragic. Please do not allow stigma and shame keep you or a loved one from getting the help and support you need. There are people who care. There are people who are trained to walk with you and give you the tools you need to make it through. There is hope.

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One of my favorite song lyrics says, “Dying is easy, I’ve known from the start, It’s the living that’s the hardest part.”* Jesus promised this would be true! He says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” It would be terribly hopeless if the verse ended there. Thankfully it does not! Jesus continues saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus, the man of sorrows, is also the man of hope and joy. He has overcome the world. He came to bring abundant life (John 10:10). And therein lies the tension on this side of Heaven: the promise of trial and tribulation alongside the promise of abundant life. Someday that tension will be resolved and all those who follow Jesus will receive the treasures they have stored in Heaven and enter an eternity of no more tears, no more sorrow, and no more pain. What a glorious day that will be! Until that day comes, embrace the tension, cling to the hope each new day offers, and choose joy and fulfillment Jesus promises is found in following Him.

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*Living is the Hardest Part by Rictor www.rictormusic.com

A Toothache, Tylenol, and Wise Words from Mom

I recently saw a sign that read, “If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your mom told you to in the first place.” This is so true! And my mom is the wisest person I know. (She just is, and if you think yours is wiser, well you’re just wrong. You can ask my brother and sister.)  And so in honor of Mother’s Day, I want to share a little of her wisdom with you:

So – a week ago I had a tooth pulled. It hurt! It’s a week later – it hurts worse than ever. Saturday was one of the first Saturdays in a very long time that I could “sleep in” but I was up, showered and ready for the day by 7:30 a.m. Why? It wasn’t because I was feeling particularly ambitious, but rather because I couldn’t sleep anyway due to a throbbing toothache. I had pain medication that kept it somewhat at bay. I had also tried icing my face and toothache drops, and Tylenol, but nothing seemed to help. By 2:30 on Monday I finally decided to call back to the oral surgeon for some much needed pain relief. So, back to Ames I went to find out I had “dry socket”. toothache
Pain is a really amazing invention. It’s our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong and in need of attention. But why is it so hard to call on the one that can help the most with the discomfort we are experiencing?

This whole episode sort of reminds me of how we deal with pain and difficulties in our daily lives. We struggle and struggle and try to ease the pain or fix the problem on our own. All the while, God is waiting with open arms for us to run to Him. He is the one we should seek. He is the one that can bring healing. He is where we will find comfort and rest. For my toothache, I needed to seek help from the surgeon, but for the difficulties I face as I live out my life – I need to run to God and He will wrap me in His arms and give me comfort and healing and satisfy all my needs.

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The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11

Until next time, may you find comfort and joy in Him even in the times of trial and pain.
Be blessed!
Judy Cleveland

Not only is my mom full of wise words, but she’s also tough as nails. (I spoke to her several times during this incident and she never said a word about the pain.) Her experience with pain and delay in calling the doctor got me thinking about how I handle my own hurts. Why is it that at times I’m so hesitant to let God know about my pain? When He’s the ultimate healer and source of all comfort, why do I resist letting Him into the wounded areas of my life? Is it pride? Is it fear? Is it stubbornness? Is it lack of trust that He’ll meet me in the hurt? Is it that I’m blaming Him for the pain? Do I question if He really cares?

I don’t need to wonder, Scripture is clear that as a loving father, God does care and does want to comfort. God just doesn’t always provide the answer or the comfort in the way I want Him to. Here’s the rest of the story. After a trip back to the doctor, my mom was told that her tooth was healing, but was simply going to hurt through the healing process. She was comforted to know there wasn’t any additional problems, but the pain remains. Sometimes God doesn’t comfort by taking away the pain, but by assuring us that it will get better in time. Really, that’s what good parents do. They don’t always take the pain away from their children, at least mine didn’t! And it is in those moments that I find I grow, become stronger, and mature the most. And as His beloved child, God wants what is best for me, even if it means experiencing some pain! And He wants to walk with me through the painful times. I need trust Him with my pain and receive His comfort, even if it isn’t the kind of comfort I want!