When you mention this phrase, most of us think of a situation where someone is experiencing a significant amount of pain and discomfort. Pain management speaks to whatever approach they implement to deal with their condition. It might include medication, physical therapy, exercises, counseling, and other elements. It’s not uncommon to hear of people going to clinics or specialists to deal specifically with the issue of pain.
But not all pain is physical.
There is spiritual pain that comes from knowing we have sinned. By this, I don’t mean the general acknowledgement that we are sinners. We all recognize that and most of us don’t suffer terribly from this admission. I’m speaking of specific sins that fill us with the pain of regret. It might be the letdown we experience when we know we didn’t do our best in some important matter—we gave a half-hearted effort and it’s disappointing because we know God is worthy of more than that. Then there are those times when we engage in an attitude or behavior we simply know is wrong. In a better moment, we later look back on it and can’t believe we stooped to something like that. Forgiveness isn’t the issue here. We know we’ve been forgiven, but we’re deeply disappointed because we so wanted to better for the One who gave everything for us.
Regret like this can put us into a cycle that enslaves. We think of something from our past we regret. It shames us because it’s incompatible with who we generally are and want to be. That shame becomes a distorted script running through our heart and mind. It holds us back like gravity. We flinch when we think about it. The common denominator in all of this is pain is viewed as something negative.
In Hebrews 12, the writer is speaking to some disciples who are experiencing pain because of their struggle with sin (v. 4). “Putting to death the misdeeds of the body” can do that (Romans 8:13). However, the writer argues this pain shouldn’t be viewed from a negative perspective. He goes on to point out that the hardship they are experiencing is part of the discipline process a father puts his children through in order to produce “a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (v. 11).
Our pain can pay spiritual dividends (Hebrews 5:8-9). The first step is to learn to learn to look at it that way. We view our pain from the past as the price we paid for our waywardness but rather than letting it bring us down, we can learn from it and build on it to be something better. The pain of the past belongs to us and no one else. We paid for it through our suffering. Therefore, it is ours now to learn from and build upon.
Through God’s grace and forgiveness, we need to make peace with the pain from our past by learning to use it in a positive way for our future.