Several years ago, a doctor wrote a small book entitled Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants. Understandably, the publishing company balked at the title, asserting that no one would purchase a book that hailed pain as a gift. Consequently, after a brief run, the word “pain” was dropped and the book was simply published as The Gift Nobody Wants.
The doctor, Paul Brand, had worked extensively with leprosy patients and was among the first to realize that leprosy did not specifically damage the sufferer’s extremities, but rather, the disease caused the sufferer to lose the ability to sense pain. This inability to discern pain caused men and women with leprosy to live boundary-less lives, wherein they routinely hurt themselves without even realizing it. The essence of Dr. Brand’s message (along with his co-author Philip Yancey) was that pain is actually a gift that protects us.
Pain is more than an unpleasant sensation to avoid at all costs, it is a gift that lets us know when we have crossed certain boundaries. It allows us to discern when we are at the end of our limits, so that we do not overextend ourselves and invite unnecessary damage. Pain tells us when we need to retract or regroup.
I don’t like this gift, no one does. I hate pain, and I wish that my loved ones and I would never have to experience anymore of it; however, I also know that pain is indeed a gift. It is a boundary line that forces me to live within healthier limits than I might otherwise choose for myself.
If you are hurting today, I pray that your soul or body will heal. But I also pray that the pain will reposition you for a lifetime of greater fruitfulness as you draw ever closer to God’s ultimate good will for your life.