Last week on my friend Mandy Thompson’s blog, she asked us if we thought physical or emotional pain was worse. I, of course, had an opinion on that. Partially because it was about pain, and partially because I have an opinion about almost everything. :)
The comment section started to feel like a bit of a “Blog Peep Question” post, since every time I answered a question, another one was posed. And to be honest, that’s my favorite kind of conversation. I love being asked questions that make me think about things in ways I maybe haven’t before.
Since my (in)courage guest post last week, I’ve had so so so many emails asking me some of the same questions we covered over in Mandy’s comment section, so I’m totally stealing from those comments/questions today to tell you all some of the answers I gave. I thought they may answer some of your questions as well.
[After you’re done reading, you should totally check out Mandy’s blog and her music. She’s an amazing song writer and completed a challenge she gave herself to write 100 songs last year. I’m am, quite literally, president of her fan club. If you’re on Facebook, you can join here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=86749752742]
This is a summary of what I answered to the original question of which was worse, physical or emotional pain:
I have to say, despite being able to empathize with the physical, I probably feel more strongly drawn to empathize with those in emotional pain because emotions often leave us with less ability to choose our reactions than physical pain does.
Then a question about if that answer is true even when the physical pain never fades away:
Even when physical pain doesn’t fade, I’d still choose it over the emotional pain. The big ones: betrayal, judgment, intense loss… they can immobilize the spirit, which is more limiting than physical immobility. That being said, both types of pain are inevitable. And both types of pain are ones that can make us grow stronger if we keep ourselves focused on the One who knows all, sees all and loves us through it all.
In response to a comment about physical pain being worse when it’s chronic, because emotional pain always has a chance to heal:
I agree and disagree. I haven’t had a break from pain in years. Mine fluctuates between really awful and wanting to beat my head against the wall until I’m unconscious. In other words, I have chronic pain. It is torture and exhausting… but the emotions that come with it are what makes it harder.
It’s the dread of having to wake up the next day, if sleep is even possible. It’s the grief over a life that was dreamed of and lost. It’s the anger over stupid decisions to do things I know I am incapable of, and trying anyway. It’s the sadness of being isolated and alone. It’s the emotional pain that is derived from the physical that can be more paralyzing than the fact I can’t move from the couch.
I’m not diminishing the physical. It can literally make me feeling like I’m losing my grip on reality at times. But the physical causes the emotional… and that takes an exhausting toll. It’s when my mind is able to align with my heart so I can make the choice to smile that I start coping. It’s in faith that my emotions are in check… and only then can I deal with the physical hurdles in front of me.
This was in response to a very good point, that my emotional pain wouldn’t be there without the physical pain:
You’re right… some of the emotional wouldn’t be here if the physical didn’t exist.
I think the point we’re maybe all missing in this discussion [me included, until right now] is that both types of pain bring growth. And that growth, in the end, is the thing we often wouldn’t trade.
When people tell me they couldn’t do what I do, my response is often, “You just haven’t had to prove it yet.” After writing that post for (in)courage yesterday, what I wish I could go back and add as an answer to many questions is that WE DON’T HAVE TO KNOW THE WHY. So many commenters are saying that they can’t see the good coming from the pain. My answer is that it’s not our job to know. It’s God’s. It’s just our job to trust, whether we see it or not, that He brings beauty from the ashes. Maybe it’s not supposed to be beauty in my life. Maybe it will bring beauty to someone I’ll never meet. My job is simply to trust Him. To go through the physical and emotional pain and embrace the peace of knowing that He is taking care of it.
It requires surrender, and that’s hard. But surrender isn’t giving up. I haven’t given up on healing. I haven’t given up on the idea that I might get worse. I’ve simply given up on the idea that I have any control over it… and the idea that I WANT any control.
It’s not about how bad the pain is. It’s about how good our God is.
Then we started in on more direct questions for me:
Why don’t you want control anymore?
- Because I never had it in the first place. I had an illusion of it that made me feel like I had some sort of power. I couldn’t see it then, but I see it very clearly now.
- Because I don’t have His wisdom… I don’t have His all-seeing eye that knows how the world works as one great entity. Which means I don’t know what is best for the greater good. I’d love to be healed, but not if it means that some other life will be worse off because of it. Only He knows the answer to that.
- Because my life is more peaceful. Because I don’t have angst over MY choices anymore. I still have choices to make, but I place them in His hands. And I know that if I go with what I truly believe He wants from me, then I’ll get through. Even if it’s a stormy path… He’s got it under control. He’s in the center of the storm. I’m safe. Difficulties in life are nothing compared to the peace of knowing He has it all taken care of.
- Because I trust Him.
How do you trust Him, if He could’ve stopped this from happening to you?
You know, that question makes me think of Job every time. Everyone talks about Job like God did something horrible to him. God didn’t do it… He just didn’t stop it. I don’t think God did this horrible thing to me… He just hasn’t stopped it. But He loves me, He comforts me, He brings me goodness in the midst of the trouble.
How many times has a parent let a child make their own mistakes? And still provided the love and comfort and goodness to walk the road with them? It’s what a loving parent does.
The thing is, we screwed up the whole perfect-world-garden-of-Eden thing because He gave us the gift of free will to choose for ourselves. He could have made us want nothing else but to serve Him, but that lacks love. Because love is a choice. He loves us, and all He wanted in return is for us to choose to love Him back by being faithful to Him.
Free will put my life in this position. And still, all He wants from me is to choose to love Him and be faithful to Him. Some see that as too much… to give up control in order to love Him. What they don’t realize is the freedom that comes from loving and trusting Him enough to give Him that control.
I trust Him, because long before the choice was before Him to take away this disease, he earned my trust by hanging on a cross. Enduring pain I can never imagine because He loves me beyond condition. It’s not about keeping score of what could be done for whom… it’s simply about love.
I guess another way of saying it is this: I trust you. You’ve done nothing specific to earn that trust… I simply do because I love you. It’s part of the deal. I’m quite sure I will make a decision you will disagree with someday. Perhaps you will make one I disagree with. But you will have your reasons, and so will I. And because I love you, I will continue to trust your heart.
I don’t know His reasons. But I love Him. And I trust His heart.
There you go, peeps… some answers to some questions I’ve been getting emails about. [Thanks, Mandy, for letting me borrow my comment answers to put over here.] How about you all? Any opinions? Answers of your own?
How about any questions you’ve been dying to ask?