Tag Archives: Pain

Pain is inevitable

This is a repost…from 10 years ago.

Everyone has a time in their life when they experience difficulty.  It might be family or finance, it might be a relationship or regret.  We know it by the emotional weight that lays on our hearts.  Sometimes we see it coming and other times it takes us by surprise.  We usually have no control on it and little ability to change the consequences.  What we have power over is our reaction.

After 30 years of marriage, and 27 years of ministry I can tell you I’ve sat with, and talked with people in almost every difficult circumstance.  The gambler, the adulterer, the runaway, the drug user, the drug dealer, the sick, the dying, the criminal, the victim, the lonely, the overwhelmed.  Most of them felt out of control of their lives and were looking for relief.  They wanted relief from the emotional weight more than anything else.

What strikes me over and over though is that despite the similarities the big difference is their reaction.  Most chose misery, most chose to suffer in their own thoughts and reactions.  But some, not very many, but a few decide that misery is optional.  They might not be happy but in the midst of their difficult days they chose to live life with hope.

The only way I think this is possible is if they have a strong belief in God and His Hand of care.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.


I had an email just this week from a friend whose son was in a serious ATV accident.  I’m not sure of all the details but the dad ended up in the ambulance with his son who was unconscious and in distress.  The good news is the son is now conscious but will be a bit recovering from the accident. The bad news might be that the dad will take some time to get over his own trauma.

I was telling him about the day that Phil fell when we were out on Mt. Lady McDonald.  As Phil fell my heart seemingly paused as did my breathing as I tried in vain to stop his fall.  As Phil fell out of sight I remember thinking the worst….he’s dead, or his neck or back is broken….and there’s no one near to help.  I never dream about it – maybe he does – but I do find myself developing a cold chill when I think about it (like right now).

That’s a long time ago now, but it’s still pretty fresh in my memory.

I can sometimes imagine the Lord feeling the pain of our decisions and consequences – by design or default – and having the same kind of sense that He would like to rescue us, and of course many people feel God should rescue us.  It goes with the argument, if God really cared…. but of course if God didn’t let us feel consequence we wouldn’t learn, and we would not be able to enjoy the pleasure (and pain) of free will.

There’s not much most of us really think is of value apart from what we can hold in our hand – but surely free will is one of the great thrills.

To quote Philip: “Being an adult rocks!”…as he eats desert for breakfast!

Richard J. Mouw – Leadership and bearing pain

Leadership can be tough at times.  I remember during one difficult period one of my peers told me I looked like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.  It seems that even emotional struggles can even have physical symptoms, but then we’ve all known that.  From tears shed from hurt to anger boiling into clenched fists the connection is obvious.

Sometimes it is quieter though – more a knot in your stomach.  

This article from Faith and Leadership resonated so well with me that I thought I would repost it here – you can read the original on their website.

If you are a leader you’ll identify –  if you aren’t a leader pray for those around you who are.

January 27, 2015

“Termination meetings — those uncomfortable sessions in which an administrator tells an employee that he or she is being fired — are primarily shaped by legal considerations these days. The instructions from the HR office are clear: Make sure that all the necessary paperwork is prepared. Get right to the point, saying as little as possible. Don’t talk about how difficult it was to come to the decision.

As a seminary president, I had more than my share of those sessions. Typically, the meetings lasted at most for 10 minutes, given the rules I had to follow. But more than once, I couldn’t sleep the night before because of my own anxiety and dread.
I understand the rationale for the rules and the need to avoid extended explanations. But it always troubled me that in the very moment when the pastoral aspects of leadership were most needed, they were most forbidden by legal considerations.

In thinking about and preparing for those moments, I often reflected upon some advice that David Allan Hubbard, my predecessor in the Fuller presidency, once gave me.
“Leaders do not inflict pain,” he said. “They bear pain.”

Interpreted literally, of course, Hubbard’s advice was simply wrong, I now realize. There is no way to fire an employee without inflicting pain. Arguably, it makes more sense to say that leaders do not inflict pain without also bearing pain.

That would have helped me understand that my sleepless night perhaps compensated at least a little for the pain I would be causing the employee whom I would fire the next day. That person suffered, but so did I.

But on a more profound level, David had it exactly right. Had I kept that employee on the job, the seminary I was leading would have suffered unnecessary pain. In almost every case, the employee in question was a good human being, a child of God with many gifts.

But in each instance, I judged that the person did not have the right set of gifts to do what the institution needed to be done. In order not to inflict pain on the seminary, then, I had to bear the pain of firing an employee, of inflicting pain on another human being.

David’s piece of wisdom may seem strange in the broader culture of leadership today. Most of us are familiar with the TV shows where, with much bravado, a CEO proclaims, “You’re fired!” Or a talent judge shouts disparagingly, “That’s a no!” Or a bachelor declares, “You’re going home!” The people being rejected — whatever their motives for appearing before the cameras — slink off with dashed hopes, humiliated before millions of viewers.

We desperately need alternative models of leadership, of people who can demonstrate what it is like to bear the pain of others.

I have no business complaining about bearing other people’s pain. I know that I’ve caused much pain in my lifetime — both necessary and unnecessary — enough that even hundreds of sleepless nights and a pond of tears couldn’t begin to compensate.

Without meaning to let myself off the hook, all of us in leadership positions will unavoidably cause pain in the lives of others. The real wisdom in David’s counsel is that we must work hard not to give in to the temptation to inflict unnecessary pain. A good leader cannot be motivated by a desire to get even, or to show someone who is boss. That is obvious.

But we must also work hard not to give in to the temptation to reduce the necessary pain. This is the kind of pain that takes place when we cannot, on the advice of our lawyers, explain and justify to the other why we have made the termination decision that is now causing him or her such pain. In situations where I had to let an employee go, I often could have explained my case to that person or to others who disagreed with my decision in a way that would have made me look better. But the institution had good reasons why I should not explain myself. In such moments, remaining silent is also a form of bearing pain.

It isn’t difficult to see the theological lesson here. There’s a line I once heard — admittedly, an irreverent one — that has stuck with me: “God is no sadist. The worst thing you can say about the God of the Bible is that he is a masochist.”

That makes good theological sense. The book of Job takes on the issue of God’s relationship to human pain, but it does not allow us to put aside our worries that God may take some kind of satisfaction in doing whatever he wants to us for his own inscrutable reasons. Yet the incarnation demonstrates that God intended all along to enter into our condition to bear the full burden of human pain. God takes upon himself human flesh, as the Suffering Servant, the Man of Sorrows, who goes to great lengths to become acquainted with our grief.

It is not always easy to know what it means to “be like Jesus” in specific contexts of leadership. But this much seems obvious: God-honoring leadership requires the willingness to bear the pain of others.”www.faithandleadership.com