I had surgery last Thursday for hernia repair. No one told me it was going to hurt this much! So for the last 4 days I’ve been finding some relief in vicodin. Every day I call the post-op surgery nurses to ask the simple question: is this [my pain] ‘normal’? Each day they assured me it is, with a polite: “you’ll feel better tomorrow”—the old “take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”
Throughout this ordeal, I’ve been looking for the inevitable spiritual analogy (you know me). As a counselor, I am used to having people tell me they are in pain. I realize I tell them the same thing the nurses have been telling me: your pain is normal. I do not, however, tell them to take two aspirin (or vicodin), nor do I promise they'll feel better tomorrow! I tell them to take in a heavy dose of Jesus.
You see, the problem is not the pain—that is normal. The problem is that in our “pain-aversive” culture, we self-medicate, and ignore the cause. Even as the pharmaceutical industry is flourishing with it promises of relief, we too, metaphorically speaking, have turned to our “drug” of choice.
In writing of the normalcy of pain, the writer of Hebrews shows us a loving Father who is training us to depend on Him alone. “No discipline [literally, child training] is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (12:11 NLT). Likewise, James says “whenever trouble [pain] comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow… and when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything” (James 1:2-4 NLT).