Understanding the Pain

Bev Hollberg. This sermon is based on Psalm 66:11.

In Psalm 66:7-18, Jubilate Deo, the line that stands out to me is “you let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.”

I’ve always struggled to find the meaning in pain. Life seems full of it; from skinning your knee to losing a loved one. Even as a small child I remember wondering “Why can’t life just be all of the good parts?” What is the point of throwing in all the nasty parts of life?

At first, I pictured “place of refreshment” to mean relief from all struggles. However, after further contemplation, I believe the place of refreshment that God brings us into is more abstract then a vacation from life. The place of refreshment God leads us to is compassion. Compassion literally means to suffer together. In addition, Miriam Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”. Compassion starts with consciousness of another human’s distress. A particular experience often leads to an increased ability to recognize that experience in another person. Sharing an experience with someone leads to an understanding of how the other person feels. Similar experiences lead to an understanding of what it is like to live through and live with that experience. Experiences lead to understanding. Understanding is the root of compassion. I believe the enemies God lets ride over our heads and the fire and water we walk through have a purpose. The purpose of pain is to grow compassionate for others hurting from the same pain.  There are always more people than immediately apparent dealing with the same problem. It takes compassion and bravery to be open enough about struggles to find people who need understanding. The place of refreshment God leads us to is a place of compassion where we have a consciousness of the pain of others and the desire to alleviate it.

I spent most of my high school career which I graduated from yesterday being angry about the eating disorder I was burdened with. Now, I am not angry. It took three years of being angry for me to realize that my struggle has a purpose. With the realization that my struggle has given me compassion and understanding to share with people who struggle with similar disorders, my anger faded. The place of refreshment I wanted was to have the struggle erased completely; I wanted anorexia and bulimia to never have hurt me or my family. The place of refreshment I have actually been given is so much more beautiful. I have been led to a place where I can understand the pain which mental disorders cast and feel compassion. I have come to a place of refreshment where I have no regrets about any of my experiences because I understand that all pain has a purpose. I am actually thankful for the experiences I have had with pain because it has led me to be a more compassionate person. The enemies riding over our heads, the water and fire we walk through lead us to compassion.