Tag Archives: pain

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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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!