The Other Side of Your Pain

July 20, 2014 — 30 Comments

I heard a woman speak at a conference a long time ago who said, “There are people waiting for you on the other side of your pain.”

That line took root in my heart and has never left. Whenever I am in the middle of something incredibly difficult, the one small consolation I have is that when I come out on the other side, I will be able to use that pain to help someone who is going through the same thing.

You might say, “Well, that’s not much of a consolation for a hard time, is it?”  

And I agree. Pain can be so big and that consolation can seem so small.  And yet it’s when we know that our pain has a purpose that it becomes just a little easier for us to bear.

For example, I never thought I’d be thankful for the excruciating times we went through with Sarah’s cancer treatment. I constantly wondered if she was going to die, even as I dealt with the heartache of caring for her–my bald, brave, emaciated, vomiting, hallucinating daughter who had to take morphine for her unremitting pain. To be honest, I didn’t sit in her small room on the transplant floor at Duke and say to myself, “Oh, I am ever so glad we are going through this because someday I will be able to help someone else!”  

And yet deep down in the quietest places of my heart I became aware of the sure knowledge that the pain Sarah was experiencing, and the pain our family was experiencing, would represent something important to someone else down the road. Our pain would turn into someone else’s healing, someone else’s hope. And that knowledge gave me a better ability to deal with those dark, dark days.

And now in this season of life as a pastor’s wife–when someone in our church has a medical crisis, when a child dies, when a spouse leaves, when a teenager rebels, when mental illness strikes, when a home breaks, I feel grateful to be able to enter these peoples’ stories with a heart that has already been broken by what they’re experiencing.

No, they are not going through the exact thing I went through with Sarah–maybe it’s not even a medical crisis they’re facing. But whatever title their situation has been given, its name is still pain. Its name is still fear. Its name is still anxiety. Those feelings are universal and well understood by those who have walked the path of suffering.

And for those who make it through their particular shadowed valley and find a way to help people on the other side of it–well, that is when pain finds its purpose, that is when beauty is birthed from despair.

I’d like to close with a story from Sarah’s cancer days that beautifully illustrates this truth.  I posted this story about a year after Sarah’s bone marrow transplant.

 

Written in 2004

In between all of Sarah’s appointments at Duke yesterday, she and I walked over to the inpatient area to visit Vivien, a new  friend of Steve’s and mine. She had just been diagnosed with an advanced stage of liver cancer.

When Sarah and I arrived at her room, we found that her brother and sister-in-law were also visiting so we all just stood around and chatted politely until Vivian suddenly got quiet. She looked across the room at Sarah and said, “I’m a little bit afraid. Sarah. Were you ever afraid?”

The rest of us faded silently into the background as my little cancer lady stood strong and tall and said, “Yes, Miss Vivien,  I was afraid at first, too.”

The two of them went on to talk about fear and scans and radiation and treatments and all of the things that only cancer patients can relate to. I was amazed at Sarah’s calm, peaceful presence and the way she brought a sense of hope and joy into that somber room.

Right before we got ready to leave I asked Sarah if she would mind praying with her new cancer friend. I certainly wouldn’t have blamed her if she had declined since she was with three adults who were strangers to her. However, Sarah quietly clasped Vivian’s hand in her own small hand, closed her eyes and took off praying.  This was no short, polite, formal prayer–it was a prayer from a little heart that had suffered much, it was a prayer prayed wholeheartedly for someone in the midst of her own suffering.

I was too busy crying to remember everything Sarah said but I do remember her praying that Miss Vivian would not be afraid and that she would have peace, even with all the things that were going on in her body.

When my little girl finally got to her “Amen,” I looked up and saw that there were  tears on every face. For those few quiet moments, we were gathered on holy ground as a young, veteran soldier took the hand of an older, new-to-the-battle soldier and spoke words that brought healing and hope.

I was so thankful to be in that place at that moment, so thankful to be a witness to the powerful faith of a child as she prayed with all the confidence of one who had already beaten incredible odds. It was a privilege to have church in the hospital, to have peace when there was no reason for peace, and to see a soul who had suffered bring comfort to a suffering soul.

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 Sarah had found someone waiting for her . . .on the other side of her pain.

30 responses to The Other Side of Your Pain

  1. Lisa from GA. July 27, 2014 at 8:57 am

    You have such eloquence with your “pen”. I continue to pray blessings upon your family.

  2. I agree so much with this. I do believe that God helped me thru the battle of breast cancer so that now I can help those that are going thru it. I didn’t know anything about it until I had it. I have so many friends with breast cancer now and I hope and pray that I have helped them all just a little bit…even if it was only to pray for them. It blesses my heart and soul to see you and Sarah living such happy lives and that you have not let cancer define you. God bless you!!

    • Kaye,

      You are so right–it is such a joy to be able to walk along beside someone going through the same thing you’ve been through. We all need to know we’re not alone.

  3. Precious and beautiful……. <3

  4. Thank you Becky for another beautiful story…….

  5. I remember that post. cried the first time I read it, and got a few tears this time too.
    Sarah was and is definitely an incredible young lady!!!~

  6. Suzanne Wallace July 22, 2014 at 4:47 am

    Beautiful Becky, and just what I needed to be reminded of.

  7. Great post Becky. An awesome response to those who ask, “why me?” The answer might well be to help someone else through their pain….and…in helping others fhrough, we often realize that as bad as things are/were for us, there is someone else who has even more pain (problems, troubles, suffering) than we do. (which is in no way meant belittle anyone’s pain. I speak only from personal experience)..
    As for your your re-post which i remember reading the first time…Sweet Sarah…so much wisdom and compassion in one so young! A truely amazing person! And, last but certainly not leas, all that Sarah is and does reflects the good parenting, love, encouragement and support provided by you and Steve. Great job Mom and Dad!
    Linda in Pittsburgh

    • Linda,

      So glad to have had you stopping by all this time–and how sweet that you remember that post these many years later!

      I agree with you. Pain is never meant to be borne alone; when we allow others to hear our story and share our hard times it helps us and it helps them!

  8. A beautiful story. It is always helpful to be reminded that pain doesn’t have to be looked as a Punisher. Pain can also be seen as a Teacher and a Guide.

    • Dr. Warren,

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your insightful comment.

      Pain as a teacher and a guide is a wonderful way to re-frame something that is often seen so negatively.

  9. Beautifully written, tear causing, peaceful to know there is someone waiting on the other side of pain. Sarah is an extraordinary young lady and I feel honored to be allow in the huge circle of people she has touched and never known. Of course, her mama is not slack either! LOL Your written word can be felt. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I remember when you posted this originally, and I often think of it. “And a little child shall lead them.” Yup.

  11. Beautifully written and an encouragement I really needed this morning. My health issues have not been the greatest the past few weeks, but today I pushed and made it on my first walk in a long time. It was lovely to be in nature, to soak up sunshine and even pick a few wild saskatoon berries (the most delicious berries in the world). But now I am home, and collapsed in bed (temporarily) from the exertion and pain as I try to regain my stamina and oomph. I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself until I read your post. Thanks for the encouraging reminder that there is (or can be if we are open to it) purpose in the pain and challenges we face. And that going through challenges can grow in us both an increased awareness of/compassion for the pain of those around us, and of the small but meaningful ways we can walk along side them as they experience their own pain and challenges.

    • Jenna,

      So sorry you’re having increased health challenges–that can be so very, very frustrating. Good for you for pushing yourself to go on that walk. Even though you it wore you out physically, it sounds like it brought a wonderful refreshing to your soul. Nature is a gentle healer, no question about it.

      And I’ve never heard of a wild saskatoon berry; maybe I’ll have the privilege of trying one some day!

  12. Jan (from Toledo) July 21, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Great post, Becky.

  13. Thank you, Becky. I needed to hear this today. My pain, as of late, has not been the gravest, but has been difficult to bear at times. So, now I am a bit more comforted for I know there is a purpose.

    • Mary,

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with difficult things right now. But I am happy that you made the time to stop by here and find words of healing and to spend time in our community. Blessings to you today.

  14. Oh my. Great reminder; great post.

Thanks for commenting; I love hearing what you have to say.