The name for this blog comes from the Hebrew word merchab. Merchab is a masculine noun that appears most often in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures. It means a broad or roomy place, an expansive place, a wide place. Read more...

May 23, 2009


I don’t like pain. I don’t like it in any form, when I experience it myself, or when I see it in others. Most of us will go to considerable lengths to avoid pain.

The problem is, pain is not an optional part of the program. You don’t get to choose whether or not pain will penetrate your life experience. It goes with being human and being alive.

But truthfully, pain is not the problem. People can live with pain, many do with courage; it has not destroyed them.

What we cannot live with are the stories we tell ourselves about the pain we suffer. What really hurts are the little narratives we spin in our heads in an attempt to explain, or justify, or make sense of, or even to alleviate, our pain.

There are so many stories we create. “This should not be happening to me; I do not deserve to suffer.” “This is not fair.” “This is happening to me because I am bad; I deserve to suffer.” “My pain is your fault, the world’s fault, God’s fault.” “Someone should make this go away; make it stop.”

We hope if we can understand what is happening, the pain will ease.

But the stories never work, because the stories we use to try to deal with our pain find their origin in the common fallacy that pain is an unnatural part of life.

Our pain-stories begin to grow silent when we acknowledge that pain is nothing strange or alien. It is an integral part of what it means to be human.

When we stop telling stories about our pain, we discover that our pain has good work to do in our lives.

The proper work of pain is not, as we fear, to destroy us. The proper work of pain is to cause the cage we have built around our heart to break open. If we let it do its work, pain has the capacity to free us from the cages we build and to release the fragrance of gentleness and compassion.

When we resist pain’s work, we harden and condemn ourselves to being trapped on the surface of life. When we allow pain to do its work, we open, soften and deepen. Pain begins to uncover the richness and reality of life. When we accept our own pain and the pain of others, we discover the beauty that is the fullness of grace and abundance we have been given.

It takes faith and trust to embrace the pain that is ours. We cannot think our way towards this place of acceptance; we can only choose to act with the courage that sees clearly and accepts fully the reality of our lives as they come to us. This is the path through the inevitable pain we must at times all face.


Jaqueline said...

I turned back to what I was doing after I read your last two posts.

This thought appeared:

Violence is the pain and brokenness that we cannot bear to accept as our own inflicted on the lives of others.

Christopher said...

thank you Jaqueline. That is lovely and wise and true.

I think it is Richard Rohr who says, "Pain that is not transformed, is transmitted."

Ahh if only we could each bear our own instead of passing it on unknowingly to others!

Jaqueline said...

Perhaps it is that we need to recognise it as our own, we need to bear it as our own..but not "on" our own. It is too much for us. Perhaps that is why we want to discard, throw,inflict or project it elsewhere, whether on children, our environment, animals, each other.

Christ seems to call us to the opposite ... Come to me...bear one another,listen to each other, love one another..Knowing that Christ is with us and we are with each other helps us each to be brave, to hold our own pain and bear it and work it through. Bring it close, don't push it away.

Our culture says too often: "I've got enough of my own problems so go take care of your own".

In a photo from an article about the challenge to intergrate that country's child soldiers a young Ugandan girl is holding a sign: an antidote to the previous statement-
"We all have problems, so share it up!"

Sara said...

Interesting reading this as I am embracing yet another migraine. My friend Christine has been teaching me to look at pain as a way God is pursuing my heart. It is a paradigm shift. Thanks for what you shared.

Sara said...

I just sent my friend Christine a link to your post about pain. I thought you might be interested in her story. She was burned in a fire and has dealt with chronic headaches/migraines for 18 years. A close friend has told her that she is a "Pain Discipler." She has a way of helping you keep your focus on God in the journey of pain.

Her husband and I both wrote about her. This is a link to her husband's blog.

Christopher said...

Thank you Sara. Christine's story is deeply touching. In light of what she has experienced, I feel ill-qualified to say anything about pain. For the most part my deepest experiences of pain have come as I have walked with others through their suffering.