Most of us enjoy receiving gifts. We desire many good things. The smartphone you have always wanted, the new computer, the new outfit or handbag, cologne, accessories, chocolates, roses, jewelry or even something of little monetary value but priceless in sentimental value. We love gifts. They make us feel special, appreciated and loved. As a matter of fact; Gary Chapman, marriage and family life counselor and author of the book, The Five Love Languages, has identified receiving of gifts as one of five primary love languages. There are five main ways in which people speak and understand emotional love, he says. The other four are, quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation and physical touch.
I am guessing that no one would consider inflicting or enduring pain a gift. I can even go out on a limb and say that none of us enjoy pain. Pain is usually identified with suffering. Pain and suffering are usually things that most, if not all of us would want to avoid. No one really embraces pain. Or do they?
In as much as we dislike and shun pain and suffering, they are necessary aspects of life. They allow for growth, protection, new life and birth and even joy. A growing toddler experiences pain as he grows his new tooth, you feel a sudden rush of pain when you touch the hot stove. A mother endures pain as she gives birth to her baby. Her pain is however, quickly forgotten as she hears the cries of her newborn baby. Instead she is overcome with tears and emotions of joy and happiness. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning”, the Bible promises (Psalm 30:5). Pain makes way for joy and new life.
In my last post I used words such as passion and passionate. I told you that I discovered my passion for writing and I told you to pay attention to those things which you are passionate about, as one of the keys to helping to identify your purpose. I have been led to conclude that we are not likely to discover our purpose without enduring some level of pain and suffering. Walking in our purpose will often cost us something. The question is, are we willing to pay the price? I wonder if this is the reason so many have seemingly not found their purpose; they are unwilling to pay the price; they are unwilling to do the work. They are unwilling to suffer for a while. They are unwilling to endure pain.
The words passion and passionate are words I tend to use often. If you ask me to describe myself, you can be sure that the word passionate would show up in there somewhere. I usually describe myself as a passionate person. Recently I have been forced to look at passion through different lenses. As it turns out, passion means to suffer. The word was coined by Christian Scholars in the 12th century and in its purest sense describes the willing suffering of Christ, this according to Kevin Hall, author of the book Aspire. He goes on further, to show a link between passion and sacrifice. Sacrifice comes from the Latin sacra which means sacred and fice which means to perform. “To sacrifice is to perform the sacred; passion is sacred suffering”, he concludes.
Passion is suffering with a goal and purpose, not suffering for the sake of suffering. So I ask myself the questions, what am I willing to suffer for? What am I willing to endure pain for? Now I ask you the questions, what are you willing to suffer for? What are you willing to endure pain for? These two questions should help make our life’s work and purpose so much clearer to us.
Pain and suffering can bring great benefit. Imagine if you could not experience pain. Leprosy patients are unable to feel pain. This is because leprosy destroys the nerves that carry pain thus making the body vulnerable to injury. Some patients have even had to have limbs amputated after they were severely damaged as a result of their inability to feel pain, leading them to unknowingly hurt themselves. Dr. Paul Brand says, “pain so often viewed as an enemy is actually the sensation most dedicated to keeping us healthy”. He wishes for his patients the gift of pain.
Passion in its purest sense is the willingness to suffer for what we love, says Kevin Hall. Do you know who suffered for what he loved? Christ! He was willing to suffer for fallen humanity. So that you and I might live, not just in this life but in the life to come. Let us make his suffering count by living a life in service to him and to others; by using the gifts which he has given to us and walking in our purpose.
I pose the questions to you again, what are you willing to suffer for? What are you willing to endure pain for? Your pain and suffering may be physical as in the case of Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl and others. Frankl who had a visa and had the opportunity to flee his country chose to stay and suffer and endure the holocaust alongside his parents, his wife and siblings. He would be the only person from his family to survive the concentration camps. Out of that experience he wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning, and found his purpose in helping others find meaning and purpose in life. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in one of his speeches said, “if a man has not discovered something that he would die for, he isn’t fit to live”.
Your pain and suffering may not be physical at all. It may be something you have to give up; friends, associates or acquaintances you may need to leave behind. A pastime you may have to sacrifice; a tough decision you may have to make. It may be new habit you need to develop or even a new attitude you have to cultivate. Maybe it is long hours you will need to spend refining a gift or developing a new strength.
I challenge myself and I challenge you today, to embrace the pain. Like Dr. Brand wished for his patients, I wish for you today, the gift of pain.