Here is an excerpt from Chapter Nine in my new book, Re-Framing Your Hurts: Why You Don’t Have to Fear Emotional Pain. This is a very different way to view pain that I learned from Dr. Wilder in the 1990’s. It might encourage you to check out the whole book.
Sometimes as we believe lies about pain (the previous chapter), it helps when we bring the lies into the light and talk about them with people who know God’s character. It is then easier to see the lies for what they are. As we realize they are lies, we can see that the very opposite of these lies about pain is true—the amount of our suffering shows the amount of our value. Think about that—we hurt about things that matter the most. We are valuable because we hurt. We don’t grieve over invaluable things. We don’t worry about trash that is going to the dump. We don’t worry if a scrap piece of paper gets lost. We don’t pay attention to every flower that grows by the highway. We hurt over things that are valuable. We hurt over people, pets, some of our material possessions, and relationships. Think about Jesus on the Cross—the most valuable suffering of all.
Once we realize that our ability to hurt shows us how valuable we are, our eyes are opened; our perspective is different. The more our perspective on pain changes, the more we will begin to suffer well and stay relational when painful situations come up. This is what it means to re-frame our hurts. We’ll learn more in a later chapter about how to do this, but for now, it’s enough to begin to see that not all pain and hurt are bad. In fact, sometimes it shows us what we value the most—ourselves and those we love. Valuable things are worth going through hurtful feelings and situations.
As we begin to re-frame our hurts, our lives will change, slowly but surely, when we see ourselves as valuable. We will stop saying we are bad because we hurt. We will see our hurt from God’s perspective. We will be free to allow God to heal us from the chains that bind us. We will see how loved we are to share in the afflictions of Christ. (Colossians 1:24) We will know we are valuable.
(An exercise to discover what your heart is like is left out here.)
When we get caught up in the lies that we talked about earlier, we don’t get as many opportunities to see the characteristics of our hearts because we stuff, avoid, medicate, or fear feeling the pain. This is a trap in which the enemy loves for us to be caught. The enemy wants us to believe it is wrong or bad to hurt so that we will stop doing the good things that God has made a part of our heart. When we think something we are feeling is bad, we avoid it; when we get rejected, or reject ourselves, for living from our heart, that pain causes us to avoid those actions. Now the lies we believe about pain have kept us from living from the heart Jesus gave us.
We can live from our hearts when we know what to do with our hurts and pain. Knowing the characteristics of our heart helps us have courage to turn the negatives things that hurt us into positives. As we embrace what causes us pain (again we are not talking about abuse), we can learn something positive about our heart. For example—when I am honest with someone and they get upset with me, their upset can cause me to think I’m bad even if I was careful to share my honesty in a kind and timely manner. Even if some get upset, God does not want me to reject my heart because it was painful to live from it.
When we feel hurt and are not quite sure why, sometimes that hurt can show us a characteristic of our heart. For example, if we hurt more than is usual at being left out of an event, this could tell us we have a heart that is hospitable. If feeling betrayed is a big hurt, the characteristic of our heart would be that we are loyal.
We can not only learn to see the characteristics of our heart by what causes us pain, but we can also help others see how they are valuable when they hurt. It’s difficult to hear our hearts when we are hurting, but when we look at what makes us hurt—and what we have been avoiding because it hurts, we can find out that the opposite of the hurt is what is true of our hearts.
As we learn to find the characteristics of our heart by what causes us emotional pain we will be better equipped to help others. When we see another person in pain about something they think is bad about themselves, we can help them discover a characteristic of their heart. We can help them by looking first at what causes them pain. When we see someone hurting, it helps to say something like this: “It’s like you to hurt when _________happens. It’s OK that you feel (angry, sad, etc.) when that happens. You hurt because your heart is (kind, nurturing, loving, etc.)”
It’s common for someone to be hurting, but still avoiding the “real” pain that is going on. They are likely to say something like, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” Or, “There must be something wrong with me.” When we hear statements like that, we can help them see what the real pain is they are avoiding and how valuable they are to hurt like that.
People love to be told the characteristics of their heart, even when it doesn’t feel like it’s true at first.