The subject of pain is always difficult. It tends to raise questions like “why,” followed by the closer to home question, “why is this happening to me?” The underlying reason for these questions is that deep within we know that pain ought not to be. Pain is temporary, only for a time. We know intuitively that pain will one day be conquered. One day, all will be made right through God reconciling all things to Himself through Christ.
I have come to view pain as necessary but neutral. What I mean by this is that pain is neither good nor bad. It just is. Further, I’ve observed on several occasions that to search for the answer “why” leads only to a dark frustrating place, exhaustion and more pain.
It’s much more helpful to view pain as a call to listen, to learn, and within proper context a call to heal. To embrace our pain is challenging. It requires faith. But it is nothing more than what Christ modeled for us all when He faced His pain. For Him and for us when pain is faced there is always resurrection.
The default mode for us men is to numb our pain. We numb in a variety of ways. We drink, we drug, we buy, we sex, and we work and work and work. Others become “super good” or “super religious” in a feeble attempt to overcome the ache within. Both tactics only bind us in wrappings of a self induced cocoon of neither joy nor sorrow only numbness.
When pain is numbed it will always surface later in some way. Unresolved pain is in no hurry. It slowly makes its way outward through the layers of wrap accumulating anger, resentment and bitterness. When it finally breaks into the light of day, it is never a pretty sight.
Understanding “the way of descent” is essential for effectively dealing with our pain. It is necessary for our growth as a human being, as a Christian and as a man.
When you and I experience pain, it is a call to hear something and possibly learn something. It is a call to heighten awareness. Pain can be caused by our own stupidity or it can be caused by something out of our control. In either case it is an opportunity to hear. By viewing pain this way, it can actually become a mercy.
It is better to have an opportunity to know, to gain understanding, than to not know. Pain is an opportunity to hear and hearing can lead to learning. The old adage says that pain is a great teacher. However, just because pain is trying to teach us something, it does not mean we are always in a frame of mind to learn. Pain is trying to get us to wake up. But we may not want to wake up.
The exchange with the man at Bethesda in John 5:5 would be an example of this. Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed, implying the possibility that the man may not want to be healed. Some people would rather stay in their pain. It’s more secure, far less risky than facing the truth.
Pain is a curious thing. It has a timeless quality. Unaddressed pain sticks around and will hinder our growth as man. This is why it is possible for one to remain an emotional boy well into adult years. The pain is buried deep but yet has the power to inform his day to day decision making as if he were still sixteen years old.
On the other hand, pain that is courageously faced will always be the beginning of something new. It will be a resurrection into a new way of living, a new way of relating and a source of life to others around.
Pain is related to manhood in a fundamental way. This is something that has been recognized within cultures throughout history. We see this in the rite-of-passage rituals of many of those cultures. Rite-of-passage rituals involved pain. The young man must knowingly subject himself to the physical pain of the ritual. This required courage is demonstrated by an exercise of faith.
Rite-of-passage rituals gave the next generation a controlled environment that induced “the way of decent”. I talk more about the way of descent in “Authentic Manhood and The Way of Descent” but it is essentially the process of surrendering one’s control, which produces a death and resurrection experience.
The way of descent is a fundamental aspect of our journey and it was modeled most profoundly for us by Christ. The experience of pain is an oppertunity to travel the way of descent, leading to the death and subsequent ressurection experience that stimulates our growth in and our understanding of the journey of authentic manhood.