In 2002 Pastor, Rick Warren released a book entitled The Purpose Driven Life. The book became an instant bestseller that according to Publisher’s Weekly was the bestselling nonfiction work in history on the basis of its answer to this fundamental question, what on earth am I here for? The book took on a life of its own as people across the world gathered in churches and small groups to take this journey with the result being that of discovering of purpose. The question of purpose raises its head in so many different ways. Students may question the purpose for a specific course that seemingly has no relevance or employees may question in the workplace the purpose of a particular task comes especially when it doesn’t appear to suit the entire project. Yet in all of these efforts to understand purpose whether in a small group study or some reflective personal journey the issue of pain in that process is often glossed over or hidden from view like an unwanted blemish that’s best covered up with some form of concealer.
Seriously, who goes looking for pain? Physical suffering or distress or emotional suffering or torment is how pain is defined by the Random House Dictionary. Life is not without pain. The pain of losing a parent, the pain of separation and divorce, the pain of a miscarriage, the pain of a doctor’s diagnosis appear as an uninvited guest to life’s celebration. If your name is not on the guest list for an event you are kindly asked to leave and if I had my way, pain the uninvited guest would be kindly asked to leave the premises. Pain however viewed has its purpose. Pain serves as a warning system to the body that something is wrong, or something is out of alignment. Pain in our lives whether mental, physical, emotional or spiritual produces that same warning signal. When we get that warning signal, what do you do? You can choose to do one of the two things either ignore the pain or do something to address the pain. How do we effectively manage our pain? We can seek professional counseling, find support groups, reach out to that confident who knows us like that back of her hand, change of diet, exercise, removing unnecessary stressors etc., can aid us in better pain management. Sometimes the pain becomes comfortable. You can become so used to it that you can barely recognize when it changes because you have dealt with it for so long so in one sense pain can even motivate us. Pain can push us out of our comfortable stuck in pain mode into a space that causes us to act and pushes us to do something different, to ask the hard questions of those who are healers of pain and demand the answers. Pain also brings things into focus. The very nature of things becomes clearer in the midst of pain as you notice the fine details or pick up on words unsaid or actions that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Finally, the pain can strengthen our resolve to soar above and go beyond the limits of our pain to see the purpose in it and walk in the purpose destined for our lives.