Though when in the midst of pain, its positive benefits may not be our primary focus, perhaps they should be. Tolerating, and perhaps even welcoming pain, may also be just a delight away. What can we do to foster a productive view of pain while seeking to endure it, move through it, and overcome it to the greatest degree possible? There are probably multifarious answers to this question, but I would like to explore it just a bit from my own experience. Pain comes in all shapes and sizes, from mild discomfort to torturous torment. Much of it we bring or have brought on ourselves as a result of choices we make or have made, choices which may have been good or bad.
Some obvious bad choices, like smoking, can have immediate negative consequences, and down the road, long term painful effects. The short term negatives are painful as well, though we may not define them as such because the magnitude is minimal. If we are self-aware and responsive to that self-awareness, that discomfort brought about by the negatives of smoking, even if minute initially, could act as a catalyst to bring about change which would help us make better choices. Pain combined with self-awareness then can help us move out of poor choices and into better ones - one thing to be joyful about.
Though I know people who smoke who I wish would gain some self-awareness from their discomfort to redirect their paths, it isn’t my personal pain problem. However, there are irritations and even significant tribulations which I have been party to creating in my own life. Eating too much and eating the wrong things have added burdens to my body that left their mark in unwelcome and even agonizing ways. Failing to floss as sedulously as I should, I have suffered with multiple misfortunes of the dental kind. Impetuous decisions and actions, as well as letting emotions guide me, have resulted in significant loss, unnecessary conflicts, and other consequential troubles, which have been problematically painful. None of these self-inflicted wounds were joyful in themselves, but when viewed rightly, they did cause me to grow in fruitful ways. I have learned that knowledge IS power and so have sought to acquire all I can to address and conquer my infirmities, empowering me to take actions to deal with the source problem as well as the symptoms that resulted. I need not be defeated because I have issues of age or ailment or anything else. I can move from defeat to triumph with sagacious reflection and action.
Some of the problems with which I will have to continue to contend are not in and of themselves a joy either, but they can be a reminder of all that there is to be joyful about. Developing a heart of thanksgiving helps deflect an attitude of bitterness, dejection, or anger. “Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4. This verse is prescriptive as is this whole chapter of the book of Philippians in the Bible. When we can learn to turn our thinking around, count our blessings, if you will, we can gain perspective on our problems and deal effectively with those issues that will pull us down. We need not give in to a downward drift if we can foster an attitude of gratitude which will pull us up and perpetuate a delight-directed life.
Of course pain is not always self-wrought. We encounter a myriad of painful emotional trials and physical tribulations which assault us without any provocation. These too, however, can be dealt with in similar fashion, and those outside our control often offer the greatest benefits.
Self-awareness, perspicacious action, and deliberate contemplative, and celebratory gratitude will empower anyone to address whatever we encounter. There is no substitute for God’s prescriptions from which these three principles flow. As pain leads one to spend more time in His company, we attain the greatest benefit of them all.