The Joy of Pain

I’m no different than anyone else. I hate pain. All kinds of pain. Emotional. Spiritual. Intellectual. Physical. I’m not picky. Not a fan of any of them. But I’m learning there is a more harmful experience than pain.

Having no feeling whatsoever.

I’ve lived with back pain pretty much since I was 26 years old. Between the Army and the other adventures I’ve put my body through, you kinda learn to just deal with it and move on. But this past August when I began to lose feeling in my left leg, that was different.

Then when the no feeling turned into no movement, no strength – that’s when the light bulb went off in my head. You know, this might be more than just back pain. That’s what started the whole go to multiple doctors, have surgery, and now recover for the long haul.

My doctor told me – “No feeling is not good. Numbness means severe nerve damage. Something is wrong and needs attention immediately.”

You know the same is true spiritually?

My sister-in-law walks around this earth with a sign hanging around her neck that says “Please tell me your life story so we can cry with each other.” Every where she goes, she meets somebody who is hurting. She hears their story, prays with them, they have a good cry with each other. I’ve watched people’s faces completely change after 15 minutes with her. It happens everywhere – supermarket, coffee shop, DisneyWorld Monorail.

I can’t explain it but I’ve observed that the people she meets typically on right on the edge of numbness. It’s like God knows they are getting to the place of Spiritual Numbness and sends my sister-in-law to intercept them. She’s like a Spiritual Neurologist.

People tend to think that the angry atheist is far from God. He’s not. It’s the numb, passionless wanderer. It’s the person living in numbness that is far from God. Theologically speaking, I hate this phrase – “far from God.” He’s never far from any of us but that’s how it FEELS sometimes. So I’m left with this inadequate description for the time being.

The larger point I’m trying to make is this – numbness is a major signal that something is wrong. The soul is dry. The tank is empty. The bones are weak. Numbness will eventually lead to no movement which will lead to no strength. Again – speaking spiritually here.

So what’s the solution? You could go sit in a coffee shop for 30 minutes and hope that my sister-in-law walks in.

Allow me to take some lessons from my recent back surgery…

You can’t drug it away. When there is numbness, no amount of ‘drugs’ will fix it. Pick your poison – sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, work, Netflix – it won’t matter. The numbness won’t go away.

You can’t deal with it alone. One of the most humbling phone calls I made was to a friend who happened to be a neurologist. I hate going to the doctor. I hate calling folks for help. I hate having to be the needy one. But all of that is pride talking. I made the call, he pretty much kicked me into movement and action.

You will need a Spiritual Neurologist. Someone who loves you enough to say – “I hear you. I see your situation. Now come follow me for a bit.” Someone who will listen, pray, cry and then move with you to a different place.

You may need surgery. You will need to take action. Serving others is always on the menu when it comes to spiritual numbness. But not by yourself. Not without your Spiritual Neurologist. You may need a season of healing, a season of discipling. You may need some spiritual surgery to correct some incorrect things you believe about God or the Bible or forgiveness or bitterness. But eventually, healing will include you getting outside yourself and serving others.

It’s about pace. Not speed. One of the biggest adjustments with my back is how to deal with pain. Don’t ignore it. But don’t just push through it either. Deal with it. Recognize it and adjust. Admit it and adjust.

Spiritually, there is a direct application here. Pain – don’t ignore it. Don’t just plow through it. Recognize it. Admit it. Then… ADJUST. Don’t wallow in it. Don’t stay in it. Adjust your perspective, your stance. This is where the Spiritual Neurologist comes in handy. They can help with this.

The joy in pain is that it isn’t numbness.


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