Holding Our Hurt

Whenever my children bruise themselves they place their hands over the swelling and just sit there with little tears trickling down their cheeks, holding their hurt. What’s interesting to me is their instinctive reaction to draw closer to the pain, to press into it, to hold it, to sit with it. And perhaps that’s where we start. The way we learn to respond well to pain and suffering is to press into it. Can we sit with it long enough to listen to what it wants to say? What is it trying to teach us? Can we listen to that dull ache in our lower back or those grey cloudy thoughts that keep circling around our mind. "Because the beginning of all real healing, wrote Henri Nouwen, is solidarity with the pain." And this leads us to one of our most important truths, pain does not define us—it refines us. If we can respond with the right intention, if we can sit with it long enough, if we can steward it, if we can let it do the work it wants to do, then it becomes a refining experience. None of this means we pursue affliction. It just means we don’t have to stiff arm it so much. We don’t have to see it as God’s condemnation of the life we’re living but rather as a kind of commendation of His life and love and holiness to us. Sitting with our pain, letting it speak, letting it teach us is only something we can learn to do by grace. It’s a prerequisite for the deeper journey with Jesus, and it’s something He’s eager to teach (Jn 16:33).

Jonathan R. BaileyPain