I’ve gone through a fair amount of physical pain lately, which made me realize something: pain is one of the biggest prioritizers in my life. Physical pain will cause us to stop whatever we’re doing and go to the hospital. Traumatic emotional pain will shut off our mind almost completely as we attempt to deal with the onslaught of feelings or numbness. And as scripture tells us, the pain of being distant from God or being disobedient to Him can have drastic consequences both immediately and eternally.
One of my favorite quotes from my wife is about pain, and what it’s purpose is: “Pain is your body’s way of telling you to pay attention to it.” It’s a very simple, but very applicable lesson to most things in life. Pain = attention. When something goes wrong long enough to grow into a big problem, or when an intense event happens that immediately stops the normal function of something, some sort of pain is usually the result. It’s a big neon arrow that say’s “YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION RIGHT HERE”.
So what should we pay attention to exactly?
I believe there are four elements that we need to pay specific attention to when it comes to pain in our life, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Here I focus mainly on the spiritual side as I feel its the most important:
1) What causes the pain
2) The long term effects if the cause continues
3) How to stop the pain
4) The Long term effects if the pain stays away
These can apply to all areas of our life where we experience pain, but is specifically important to our spiritual life. For example if we fail to be in God’s presence through prayer, reading of scripture, and gathering together for worship, we may experience the pain of feeling like God is far from us. If it continues on, the long term effects could be a loss of faith or connection with the body of Christ. On the other hand, if the initial pain causes us to give it the focused attention it needs and we prioritize it, we can correct it or seek help in order to stop the pain fairly quickly. Additionally the long term effects mean that we’ll not only prevent the pain from coming back, but that we’ll grow resilient to it by strengthening our priority to put God first.
Example: Most people (including myself) have some sort of habitual or pesky behavior they do on a regular basis that puts some sort of wedge between them and God. This wedge is spiritually painful. We feel like God is not there, is deliberately far from us, or just doesn’t care. If we use a common example – like busyness – with these four elements above, we can see the consequences:
1) Being busy causes : stress, distraction, loss of effectiveness, fatigue, guilt, stretched too thin, etc.
2) Long term, it means we say yes to too many things and don’t priortize family, church, serving others, quiet time, and eventually a close relationship with God because we don’t make enough time for Him.
3) How to stop being busy would be to selectively say yes to the right things, and create more margin in our lives.
4) Long term, it means we get to devote more energy and time into the right things and still have enough margin for God, which leads to a healthy faith life.
If you’re going through some Spiritual pain right now, take a step back and work through those four elements above. Often times we already know what we’re doing wrong, and probably even the long term effects if we continue. Focus on how to stop it, and the long term good effects.
Is there a pain in your life recently that you’ve been ignoring and need to prioritize?