Written by Daniel Johnson

It was Friday, at 10:27 a.m. I was screaming in pain—stomach twisting, body writhing. It wouldn’t get out. It. Wouldn’t. Get. Out. There was only burning, twisting, grating.

“It’s alright,” my wife said. “It’ll be alright.” The words ricocheted off my eardrum and back out. I hoped that it would be alright.

The ambulance took me to the ER. At 12:19 p.m. they told me, “You’ve got appendicitis. We’ve got to get that out.”

When I awoke, they said I did great. My wife was beside the bed with tears of joy and relief. “You’re alright, darling, you’re really alright.”

So, as I sat to write this with five-day-old stitches in my stomach, I had to think about life and its painful times. In a way, your pain reveals yourself. What do we do with it? What does it bring out of the basement of our hearts? It’s great when life’s great, but there is something about difficulties that brings out what resides beneath. 

What we do with that response makes all the difference. Pain does a great job of revealing what’s right and what’s not within our hearts, souls, minds, and spirits. When we get hurt, what comes out in our thoughts, feelings, or mouth? Vulgarities? Complaints? Doubts? Or joy, peace, love, patience? While it might sound insane to respond with joy in the midst of pain, it is possible if it comes from the roots of a changed heart.

God showed me that day in the hospital what needed to come out: fear, anger, hopelessness, and self-pity. Fear that I would not get better (I did). Anger that God would let it happen (He was right there, and it wasn’t His fault). Hopelessness that the pain didn’t go away (He brought me through it with the Holy Spirit’s comfort), and self-pity that I wouldn’t get cared for the way I thought I needed to (I was cared for, and it brought out great care in those around me).   

We all need heart surgeries. From the first time we set out our welcome mats for Christ to come in, we give that understanding, blessed Doctor permission to heal us. It hurts, but He’s got it. Quiet trust, holy submission, that’s how Christ endured His road of suffering. 

Let pain purge us of all that would narrow our sights on Him and His love. Pain will do that. It shows us what’s there and what is not. Is it doubt that He can bring us through it? Rage that He allows pain? Or trust that He’ll work through it? Sometimes it’s all of these reactions. But like gold going through fire, pain removes the impurities—what’s eternal will last, and all else burns away.

What’s more, we get to see, ponder, and process the responses that come as a result of pain. And to the extent that we submit ourselves to that painful, fiery but beautiful purifying process, we come into alignment with Jesus’ righteous way, which produces a joyful harvest.

It’s tempting to avoid the pain, to numb it or look the other way. Or, to do the opposite: to wallow in it, which does not produce trust but rather ashen sorrow, self-pity, and a hopeless victim spirit. Instead, try facing pain with your Savior, who was tested in all ways we are tested, and yet is without sin. And know that your pain will show you who you are and what you’ve got.