A few weeks ago, Jenny and I attended our first lamaze class. The entire thing was a perfect balance between quite helpful and exceptionally ridiculous. There were a few moments we had to fight hard not to laugh out loud. The room was set with the lights dimmed down, fake candles lit, and new age music softly filling the room. The low point (or high point, depending on how you look at it) came when the instructor asked us to gaze lovingly into our partner's eyes and begin massaging their head. Jenny hates being touched on her head and I'm terrible at giving massages. We couldn't stop laughing. We annoyed the handful of couples who were taking it all way too seriously. You know the ones I'm talking about.
But our amusement was interrupted with one profound moment. About halfway into the class the lamaze instructor said this about the birth process [a loose paraphrase]:
There is a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is your ally. Pain reminds you that you're alive, that your body is doing its work, and that new life is on the way. Suffering has no meaning, no purpose. When you give birth, you will feel pain. But we will make sure that you do not suffer.
Her words reminded me of Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search For Meaning. In it he writes this:
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. [...] In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.
I don't know what sort of pain you've experienced in your life. But if you're human, you've known pain. You've known the pain of betrayal, regret, guilt, shame, sickness, death and on and on. And when left alone, when our pain is left to linger there, detached from any sort of meaning or purpose, it soon becomes suffering. But you don't have to suffer any more. Your life has meaning and purpose, whether you know it or not. And you're not alone. All of us who live here in this reality we call human existence, along with all of creation, are with you. The writer Paul reminds us of this truth in Romans 8v22-25 [The Message paraphrase]:
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
So no matter what you're going through, no matter how much it hurts, how impossible it seems, how immense and enormous the pain may feel, remember that the pain is enlarging you. The pain is your ally. The pain reminds you that you're alive, your soul is doing its work, and new life is on the way. Your life has meaning and purpose far greater than the pain you feel now, the pain which will eventually pass. Remember that the longer you wait, the larger you become, and the more joyful your expectancy will be.