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Pain As A Pathway To Greater Joy

October 21, 2022

This past week I finally had a knee surgery I’ve been putting off for a long time.  I knew how much pain I’d be in and the road to recovery it would require, and who wants to do that?  I made myself put the date on the calendar and hold to it, though I entertained canceling it several times.  

The hope is that temporary pain will lead to a better result longterm.  In my case, pain is the ONLY pathway to a different future for my knee. Even when we have knowledge such as I do, choosing to go through with an action that will cause great pain takes courage and strength.

In coaching sessions, my client and I often uncover that avoiding pain is a strong motivator and decision maker. What will bring the least amount of pain is the way forward. Or is it?

We unconsciously assume that if something looks good, feels good, and doesn’t cause too much conflict, it’s good. And in reverse, anything that doesn’t feel good, look good or causes conflict is bad.

But what if pain is the portal that God is using to forge us into the person we are meant to become? What if pain the way through to greater freedom, healing, purpose, and joy?

People assume that happiness is a feeling.  Happiness leading researcher Arthur Brooks has a different perspective:

“A better definition of happiness is:  It’s like a meal with 3 micronutrients,  and they are: enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. You may have spent certain times in your life really having a great old time. Lots of pleasure, lots of enjoyment, but kind of aimlessly. And you most likely didn’t find that you were really, really happy.

Almost everybody, it turns out, when they’re asked what actually helped them understand their life’s purpose—which is part of happiness—paradoxically, they talk about periods of unhappiness. To be happy, you need purpose. 

To have purpose, you need unhappiness. You need some pain. You need some sacrifice. You need some difficulty.”

-ARTHUR BROOKS

So maybe avoiding pain isn’t the best decision maker. In fact, all arrows point to needing pain to create humble, kind, purposeful, compassionate, sacrificial, benevolent, and whole human beings.

So how do we navigate times of pain?  In our families?  In our individual circumstances?  

  • EMBRACE WHAT IS TRUE – Be honest about the reality of what is so forward motion can happen
  • BREATHE THROUGH PAIN – Even simple deep breathing impacts how our brain reacts to hard circumstances+come up with a HEALTHY pain management strategy (may include prayer, exercise, walking, nutrition, meditation, practicing self care)
  • DON’T WALK ALONE –  Trusted friends, spouses, counselors, etc all play an important role in helping navigate pain.  


Pain is often the pathway forward.  May we stop resisting it and start embracing it as an important part of the deepening of our lives. 

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