The difference between pain and suffering

What’s done is done. You cannot change the past.  No matter how hard you try or how bad you feel about it or for how long.

Many people I’ve met over the years waste their lives living with regret constantly looking back, thinking about what could have been, what should have been, always dwelling on the sorrows, mistakes, heartaches and pains of yesterday. And it’s OK if that’s the way you want to live your life, I won’t judge you, but I will say this to you, ‘there is a better way of doing life.

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It is human to mourn, be sad, be frustrated, and even angry, as there is a time and place for it all (c.f. Ecclesiastes 3).

But there also comes a time when we have to trade in our ashes for beauty and our mourning for joy (c.f. Isaiah 61:1-3). If we want to be free there must come a time where we allow God to turn our pain into something more.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness…” Psalm 30:11 (ESV)

I don’t know if you’ve seen this very powerful video that has gone viral lately, but if really puts a profound spin on things. You can watch it here:

When unfair, painful, and even evil things have happened to us in the past, we have one of two choices:

1. we remain in the pain and suffer for it and allow it to interfere with God doing good things in my life now, OR

2. We make a decision today, right now, to let all that go and allow God to create something new in and through my life now, in spite or even as a result of that pain or injustice we experienced.

Every single person I know of that has gone though incredible heart wrenching, painful experiences, but made it to the other side, all say a very similar thing (like the dad in the video above):

At some point on that journey it comes down to a decision. You choose to stay in the pain and suffer, or you choose to move through it to something bigger as a result of it.

Is it always easy? Of course not! Is it important?  Always!

But here’s the big and challenging part. It is insidious in nature and can turn something normal and necessary (pain) into something dangerous and destructive (suffering).

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When you are tempted to sit around too long feeling sorry for yourself (when genuine pain has become self-pity), complaining about how unfair life is, or even catch yourself getting some perverse satisfaction from your pain, start asking yourself some tough questions once you’ve allowed enough time to mourn or be angry naturally: “What’s going on here? 

Do I really want to get well, or have I gotten comfortable with living with this ‘story?’  Is the story I’m now living actually giving me more ‘pleasure’ than pain? 

Am I actually enjoying the attention I’m getting by holding onto the depression? 

Do I perhaps love the love I’m getting by holding onto the tragedy that happened 2, 3, or even 10 years ago, so why give it up? 

Am I maybe finding it easier being sad and secretly liking it when people constantly try to cheer me up, that the pain has come to serve a purpose in my life and makes me feel good?”

Here’s the thing and write this down – Don’t ever let your suffering become your identity.

Pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice.

To put it bluntly, you can’t do anything to prevent pain from finding you, but you do have a choice what you do with it.

A powerful book to read on this is, “A man’s search for meaning” by Dr Victor Frankl.

This shows you what’s possible.

To be blunt – there comes a time when you have to let go whatever you’re holding onto in order to grab onto something else.

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There is a time to talk but also a time to stop talking about it and become open for a new song of some sorts.  Stop opening up the old wounds again and again.

You may have been severely wounded by the past – but it’s time to let it go and move on.

Quit mourning about something you can’t change.  You MUST let go of your nightmares if you want God to give you fresh, new dreams.  Quit wasting one more valuable moment on something that’s over.

How?

Quit cuddling up with your story.

Forgive the people or person who has hurt you.  Release any remaining bitterness.  Find a new thing to focus on and throw yourself into it.  Serve someone worse off that you, is always a powerful thing.

Divorce your story and marry the truth.  And what is the truth?  That God uses all things for good, for those who love Him.

He will give you a new future if you allow Him to take your old past.

May light and peace fill your life