We live in a world where process is often not enjoyed and valued. If you’re aiming to be a business person you had better be successful right away… at the ripe age of 24... fresh out of college. Want to be an artist? It feels in the beginning as if we must advance from student to master in the blink of an eye. Be prolific and prodigious or nothing at all. Creatives, myself included, are often more concerned about the message of our work before we even learn to use the basics of our medium to speak clearly.This lack of process doesn’t apply only to careers and creatives either. Are you hurt or hurting? Well, put on a brave face, think happy thoughts, and pop some ibuprofen.Whatever you do don’t rest. Don’t show any weakness or vulnerability. The world has no time for those who lag behind. It takes grit to get ahead and life is all about getting ahead… right?
Pain is an indication that something needs to change. Depending on the flavor of pain you are experiencing it means you need to adjust the way you move, think, behave, eat, believe, hope, cope, etc. Pain is not the problem, it’s a symptom, and while minimizing pain might be as easy as getting a prescription filled, dealing with the deeper issues of health, both bodily and spiritual, requires time, intentional effort, and rest.
Healing is a process. I recently injured my arm while training for rock climbing. As much as I wanted to continue to train and progress, it was clear that progression meant resting, doing nothing. I couldn’t climb anything for 5 weeks and even after that, it has been a slow return. In the past few years I also endured a different kind of injury, a betrayal (from my perspective) from people who I cared for deeply and thought I could depend on and trust. Following these events, I said quickly that it wasn’t that big of a deal, that I didn’t really care or hold it against them. After two years I spoke with one of the persons involved and I discovered then, after all that time, that I finally felt emotionally whole and healed again. Things weren’t just better overnight and though I had coped as necessary to carry on, it took a long time, years, before the actual wounding beneath the pain was restored.
All things beautiful require time. A healthy, strong body doesn’t emerge overnight from a sick, neglected one (contrary to what you’ve undoubtedly heard from supplement, weight-loss, and pharmaceutical companies). Painters don’t create culture-altering work on their first try. Endeavoring to create a single important painting in one’s lifetime is a sufficient goal. Emotional and spiritual restoration isn’t immediate after suffering a severed relationship, abuse, rejection or fear and doubt. It’s recorded that while suffocating on the cross, Jesus choked out the words, “Forgive them Father, they don’t know what they are doing.” I believe he could petition for mercy for his assailants while not having personally gotten over what they had done and were doing to him. Asking God to forgive them may well have been simply the first step toward him being able to forgive. It is no sin to recover slowly from trauma.
In addition to allowing the time necessary for healing, I believe we should be present and mindful of the pain we are experiencing in order to get to the roots of it. If we keep treating pain like it’s the problem we may never get it sorted out. If your body is weak, tired and stiff but you won’t address a poor diet and lack of exercise, good luck finding real relief. I thought my arm injury was a straightforward ligament issue but after careful, intentional attention and consideration I discovered that, though I had damaged some connective tissues, the injury was actually a result of how I was moving and using my arm. I have since been retraining my body to move and engage differently while climbing. If we have emotional or spiritual pain we don’t just have to endure and numb it hoping that it will someday just disappear. There are steps we can take and tools available that can aid in the healing process. We can assess the source of pain, talk about it with someone we trust (it’s amazing how speaking of something, bringing it into the open, takes away its power over us), or even seek assistance from someone who is both caring and qualified to help others discover light at the end of the dark tunnel of hurt. Jesus also said that we should pray for those who hurt us; those who are our enemies. I have found that nothing causes me to recover more quickly from emotional or relational trauma than this. Praying and releasing blessing and mercy over those or that which has hurt us does at least as much for us as it does for them. When we extend mercy we experience peace. I don’t know why it works exactly… it just does.
Allow yourself rest. No matter the injury you’ve sustained rest is good medicine. If it’s physical, take some time off from activity that isn’t promoting healing. Emotional? An afternoon in the mountains, at a park, or curled up watching movies can be extremely beneficial. Spiritual? Learning to rest spiritually is arguably the most important step in realizing spiritual peace and freedom. You can’t advance spiritually by trying harder. Take rest and refuge in the reality that you are loved eternally and allow your heart to be gently transformed into the love and truth you are seeking. Enlightenment isn’t something you do, it happens to you as you rest in love.
Hurt and healing are part of the human condition. Pain in this life isn’t something to be avoided but experienced, wrestled through, and learned from. As we all seek more and more complete states of physical, emotional, and spiritual wholeness never forget that pain is a symptom, not the problem, and that time, intentionality and rest are steps in the direction of true and lasting healing.