The Purpose of Pain

By: Elena Smith

When you get hurt, your body sends a signal to your brain that then registers it as pain. Growing up I remember doing everything within my power to avoid feeling this awful sensation, bending over backward to stay comfortable. To some extent, the world teaches and normalizes this avoidance. We walk through life ignoring the hard situations because we don’t want to expose ourselves to anything that can hurt us, forgetting the purpose behind the hurt. If you’re reading this, I can imagine how that sounds. Trust me when I say I questioned myself as I wrote this piece because it contained a truth that many are not ready to hear: there’s a purpose behind the pain.

I have a bad habit of overthinking and internalizing the events that have occurred thus far in my life. I carried myself as the girl who life handed every hard circumstance to. The girl who God forgot about. The girl who only knew pain and suffering. My past became my identity; my mistakes a scar worn with shame. I became stuck in a mindset. I couldn’t see beyond the circumstance, dwelling in a place of anger and sadness. Funny thing is, I don’t think I realized I had been doing that until someone called me out on it. I had so feverishly tried to avoid the very pain I was putting myself in day after day without stopping to consider the story behind the hurt, that maybe it was meant for something more than a ghost or weight on my shoulders.

That same day I was challenged to do the one thing I had yet to bring myself to accomplish: find God working in the painful moments. To say that the task gave me anxiety would be an understatement. I was terrified because of the inevitable need to reopen old wounds to bring about purification. Every time I sat in the stillness and quiet of my mind, all I could do was cry. I probably cried for 4 days before gaining the strength to open a word document and begin writing my story. All the good, bad, and ugly poured onto the blank pages, growing in length by the minute. Through the tears, I recounted every moment I felt forgotten, abused, or at war with myself. I argued with God and fell on my knees until my eyes dried and I could finally breathe. I found myself unable to stop writing. Attempting to condense 20 years of life into a short narrative appeared impossible. As I looked over my words, a fundamental truth slowly emerged from the closet of my mind. Maybe, just maybe, all my pain meant something. Maybe, my life isn’t a series of unfortunate events. Maybe, there is joy in the suffering and we only have to look underneath the surface to find it.

I’m not saying life makes perfect sense or isn’t messy. In fact, I’m saying quite the opposite. But perhaps the point of it all is to remind us we can’t do it alone. We can’t understand every intricacy or the reasoning behind it. There are still some parts of my story I struggle to rationalize, but if in one week so much can be redeemed, then what does that say about a lifetime? I consider myself a work in progress. My habits are a work in progress. Some days I rise and others I fall but I know who will pick me back up again. So to the girl or boy cowering in the person you once were, please hear me when I say: You are not your pain. You are not your past. There’s purpose in your story, you just have to be willing to turn the page.

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