When we feel physical pain, at least since the middle of the last century, our first impulse is to find a way to eradicate it with medication. This is an understandable response, but sometimes in our hurry to get rid of pain, we forget that it is the body’s way of letting us know that it needs our attention. A headache might inform us that we’re hungry or stressed; a sore throat might be a signal to shut up; an aching muscle or joint might be indicating that we need to rest. If we override these messages or block them with medication instead of respond to them, we risk worsening our condition. But more than that, we disconnect ourselves into segments that need to be kept in homeostasis: body, mind, spirit.
Physical pain is not the only kind of pain that lets us know our attention is needed. Emotional pain provides us with valuable information about our inner state, and it informs us that we have been affected by something that requires our awareness to be turned inward. Just as we tend to a cut on our arm by cleaning and bandaging it, we treat a broken heart by surrounding ourselves with love and support. And though we may be tempted to pour a stiff drink, or find other unhealthy ways to numb that pain, we really do know on a deep level that we won’t feel better until we allow the effects of our emotional earthquake to manifest in our consciousness. It’s natural to want to resist or avoid pain, but once we understand or at least open ourselves to accepting that the Easter earthquake touches every aspect of who we are, we can take a breath and pause before reaching for medication in whatever form it beckons to us. Sometimes the act of merely drawing a deep breath is enough to noticeably reduce the pain, because its message has been acknowledged and, in light of the resurrection of Christ, we know that suffering always leads to triumph. Speaking personally, sometimes we medicate pain because we’re afraid it’s never going to go away and we can’t stand that thought. But this is when our faith has to mean something. Our faith has to empower us to realize that there is nothing but a glimpse of Easter’s glory in every downturn, in every pain.
I realize this sounds like some crazy pastor’s platitude, but having shared this Lenten journey with you and our book Easter Earthquake, I feel more convinced than ever that if we say we believe in Easter as the capstone to all the suffering of Christ, then we have to live that truth in our own experiences of death and dying. So maybe the next time we feel pain or experience suffering, we could try listening to what it is that God might want us to understand about it. It could be simple message telling us to slow down, to take a breath, to maybe reflect and write in a journal about how hurt we are feeling. The bottom line in all of life’s suffering—and I believe this more each day—is that pain has only one purpose, and that is to heal us and bring us to glory. That is the message of Easter.
On behalf of David and myself, I pray you have an Easter earthquake of your own this week, and that the stone, regardless of its size, will be rolled away for you.