The Problem with Pain

“…pain is like a warning light on the dashboard of our car… The warning light isn’t trying to annoy you. It’s trying to protect you.”


Recently, I was reading the book, “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way,” by Lisa Terkeurst. In Chapter 3, she talks about pain in a way that really caught my attention and resonated with me. Here are the lines that stood out—

“Feeling pain is the first step toward healing the pain. The longer we avoid the feeling, the more we delay our healing. We can numb it, ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist, but all those options lead to an eventual breakdown, not a breakthrough. 
“The feeling of the pain is like a warning light on the dashboard of our car. The light comes on to indicate something is wrong. We can deny it. We can ignore it. We can assume it’s a little glitch in the operating panel. We can even go to the mechanic and ask him to turn off that annoying little light. But if he’s a good mechanic, he would tell you it’s foolish not to pay attention to it. Because if you don’t attend to it, you will soon experience a breakdown. The warning light isn’t trying to annoy you. It’s trying to protect you.”1


It was those last two sentences that I keyed in on. I had to stop reading and journal my thoughts to make sure I did not forget where those statements led me. Later that evening, I read the rest of that chapter and was struck by the similarities in our stories. While my disappointments are no where on the scale of what Lysa has experienced, she also shared a medical emergency that was eerily similar to one I experienced earlier this year. She drew parallels between physical and emotional pain very similar to what I have been grappling with. For nearly three months I have been pondering the connection (if any) to the recent physical pain and the emotional pain I have struggled with for years. As with Lysa, my physical ailment that eventually led to emergency surgery and a long recovery had been brewing for some time. But in both our cases, the pain had not been intense enough to force us to address it. Until it was. If I had paid attention to the pain earlier, the results could have been much different and less life altering.

Isn’t it amazing how our loving, omniscient God uses the experiences of others—lived through and written about years beforehand—to impact us at precisely the right moment for our good? Isn’t it just like our God to use the pain others walk through and the lessons they have learned to comfort us and help us in our own journeys?

”And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
2 Corinthians 1:2-4

The Journey

Annoying pain grabbed my attention for several days in late winter. I took to the couch to see if rest would ease the pain. When it didn’t, I added OTC pain meds. After five days, the pain mercifully vanished for a week, only to return with a vengeance that could not be ignored, rested through, or medicated away. It was time to call in the professionals. It took two ER visits, three CT scans, and three and a half days of antibiotics and real pain meds for it to become clear that more drastic measures were needed. So, early on a Friday evening, I was whisked off to surgery where the surgeon skillfully removed the diseased parts of my insides, stitched me back together again, and the healing finally began.

During the painful days before surgery and the days and weeks since, I have had plenty of time to contemplate. Was God using what had happened as an object lesson unrelated to the physical pain? Unrelated to food choices or hydration levels or sedentary lifestyle? It certainly seemed He was trying to get my attention. Was this more about emotional pain?


The Lesson

The single most valuable lesson I learned from the physical illness is this—Do. Not. Ignore. Pain. Especially pain that will not go away.

Pain is the indicator of a problem. If ignored, consequences will eventually ensue. This is certainly true with physical pain. It is also true with emotional and spiritual pain. If we ignore pain, hoping it will go away if we do not give in to its demands, it will find a way to get our attention sooner or later. If we try to hide the pain, it will express itself in all sorts of ways that will likely make the situation worse.

Ignoring and/or trying to manage emotional pain on my own for far too long eventually resulted in a physical manifestation that forced me to stand up and take notice. But long before the physical manifestation came, the emotional pain came out in many different ways. Impenetrable walls, hardness (because softness bruises too easily), self reliance, moodiness, criticalness, irritability, anger. Eventually, tears ceased and anger took over. Anger feels safer because vulnerability is too weak. And anger as a defense mechanism can become a habit.

My emotional pain expresses itself in anger and…

”…the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
James 1:20 NASB95

My prayer

Father, please continue to lead me on this journey to physical and emotional healing. Teach me what You want me to learn. Forgive me for fighting against the pain and not understanding the lesson. I surrender. I do not want to walk this path any longer. Oh, Great Physician, please start Your treatment. I submit even to surgery under Your divine hand to cut out any root of bitterness. I sign the consent forms. (I would appreciate anesthesia of some kind during the process, but if that is not possible, may Your grace be sufficient!)
In Jesus Name. Amen

”…’My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We all go through physical and emotional pain in our lives. I share some of mine here for those who may be walking a similar journey so that you can find comfort and hope and know that you are not alone. If you have come out on the other side of a painful journey and have learned the lessons from it, share your journey of victory with others.

For more about my personal ongoing journey through physical and emotional pain see my earlier posts, The Simmer of Our Discontent and Who You Gonna Call

If this post has touched you or resonated with you, please consider liking, commenting, and sharing it with a friend.

OnScripture encourages readers of this blog to follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:10-12, who received the word preached by Paul and Silas with readiness, but searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. We never intend for you to take our word for anything. Only God’s Word will stand.

All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.

Featured image by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels via CanvaPro.

  1. Lysa Terkeurst, “But How Do I Get Through The Next 86,400 Seconds?,” in It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way(Nashville: Nelson Books, 2018), 36.

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