I recently had a friend tell me that he knows he is making bad decisions. He knows but he doesn’t want to stop because the other option is to be in pain. What he meant, of course, was that he is making decisions to avoid the pain in which he is living.
I get it. Do I ever get it.
Who among us wouldn’t want to NOT feel the pain? There are all manner of ways to numb and avoid. Of course, we are all familiar with the most famous: drugs, alcohol, food, sex. Maybe we feel confident that we wouldn’t use any of those vices to numb, and yet…
I’ve been mulling this over since the conversation. I’m sad for my friend because I believe he is missing out on some incredibly valuable treasures that are only found by walking intentionally through the pain. But, I’m also sad for myself because I am in a season of pain and I want to not be here.
Not to change the subject, but I have noticed that when working out, I often cry. I’ve been pondering this habit lately because it honestly feels involuntary. Hot yoga-tears. Spin-tears. Dance-tears. Y’all, how ridiculous is that?! Turns out it isn’t so ridiculous after all. I googled.
I think part of this phenomenon of tears mingling with my sweat is because it is freaking hard work. It is uncomfortable. It hurts. And I’d rather not. But, I believe, on the other side of the pain, is life, as in “healthier, joyful, confident, better, more whole, abundant life”. And I want that. I want the breakthrough. I want to feel stronger, more energetic, more confident, but to get there, I have to intentionally face the pain that could so easily keep me from the life I want. I could let the fear of temporary discomfort keep me from long-lasting benefits.
And the pain of life is the same. Disappointments, wounds, dead ends. They hurt. Like hell. We want to keep ourselves from having to feel the weight of those hurts. I want to insulate myself so I don’t ever have to FEEL the pain of a brokenhearted or the strain of having to figure out obstacles that I didn’t ever think I’d have to figure out. I could numb the pain; I could avoid the reality of my circumstances. But the truth is, I believe there is life on the other side. If I want to find that life, that more whole version of myself, I have to actually walk THROUGH the pain to get to the other side of it.
And here’s the kicker, for me. Our numbing devices never affect only us. In our vices, there are always others involved, even if we want to believe we are only hurting ourselves. The truth is, if we are avoiding our pain, all we are doing is dragging other people into it with us. Drunkenness, getting high, sleeping around, spending uncontrollably, cutting ourselves off from community. There are always other casualties. Why would we want to do that to our kids, our friends, even a random stranger?
I’m not immune from the temptation to numb. I get it. I find myself fighting that temptation constantly and often failing. But I believe there is life on the other side of that pain. I want the treasures to be yours. I want the treasures to be mine. But, we have to dig in. We can’t run from the darkness if we want to find the diamonds. They are there. Buried deep in the caverns of disappointments and dead ends.
And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—
I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
Isaiah 45:3 (NLT)