The Other Side of Pain

I wrote this post quite a few years ago and the poem decades ago (updated about seven years ago). I don’t know why I didn’t publish it. A student at the Avila Institute reminded me that I had written the poem and shared it once in class. She took a screen shot and shared with another student. By God’s grace, I had opportunity to see them both this past weekend and they both independently reminded me and noted the impact on them. Here’s the long overdue post.

During my prayer this morning I was once again moved to tears as I considered the words of Christ in the context of my own suffering.  But before I begin, it is important to note that my wife read the draft of this post and indicated that it was a bit surreal. So, to be clear, it is all true. In fact, because of the brevity required in the post, it is really a significant understatement.  So, here it is, as it is, raw and relatively unfiltered.

My body has never been a good friend to me; countless surgeries, almost constant pain and fatigue have troubled me all my life.  With respect to my youth, if you can imagine any home where gunfire might occur, and where your mother is beaten into the emergency room, you might suspect it to be a devastating place for the heart of a child.  The early loss of a best friend to a drunk driver, coupled with the loss of two siblings in their 30’s, and then a niece at two years old, and more surgeries…

Then, just before the 911 attacks, and just after publishing a business book, I quit my job to start a consulting company. This perfect storm resulted in financial devastation. This financial disaster, my own sin, my health challenges, and a more complete turning to God – all culminated in my first wife’s decision to abandon the faith and our relationship. Since then, two emergency surgeries to save my life. The pain is still almost constant.

So – I have known a little suffering.  But this morning, in prayer, in pain, I was overcome with gratitude. Why? Because, by His mercy, He has met me in my suffering.  Through these experiences, I have come to know Him in a way I could have never imagined. These thoughts sum up what I have learned by experience, prayer and meditation on God’s wisdom in scripture regarding suffering.

If I have not been in pain, He has not relieved me

If I have not been sad, He has not lifted my heart to heaven

If I have not been reviled, He has not comforted me

If I have not been abandoned, He has not come to me

If I have not been broken, He has not healed me

If I have not been lost, He has not shown me the way

If I have not been in sin, He has not redeemed me

If I have not been without a friend, He has not walked beside me

If I have not mourned, He has not comforted me

If I have not been betrayed, He has not restored me

If I have not been in chains, He has not set me free

If I have not wept, He has not dried my tears

If I have not been in the depths of darkness, He has not brought me into to the light

If I have not suffered, I have not known Him

The ultimate and most profound joy I have known in my life is in knowing Christ. I would not have known Him even in the small ways that I do, without suffering. Though I would not willfully choose the path I have traveled, I would choose it if I knew it was the only path to Him.

My suffering has come because of my sin, the economy, my health, circumstances beyond my control, the sin of others, the sin of Adam. However, how can I feel anything but gratitude?  I have found Him there! I have found the greatest treasures of my life in the midst of the greatest pain.

He is there in the darkness. You will find him if you will only reach out for Him. But, if you can, when you extend your hand, don’t ask for relief or remedy for the very circumstance that has you seeking the only real answer to life’s cruelty.  Just, ask for His presence.  He will respond – you will know Him as you could not, without suffering.  Only in Him will you find peace and rest for you soul in the midst of darkness.

“Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He keeps His promises.


9 thoughts on “The Other Side of Pain”

  1. Thank you for this treasure. I agree with your statement, the post was long over due; but, perhaps, not long overdue in God’s timing. For me, He chose a perfect time for you to post this, as I have known suffering, but never new how to embrace it as you so beautifully spoke of, and what it means to do so.

    Yours in Christ,

  2. This is incredibly moving and beautiful and illustrates the fruit of your giving yourself to God in your suffering. This could become a prayer- that we could approach life with such a perspective that no trial or suffering would be wasted as an opportunity to turn to Him, to know Him more fully and in that to love Him more dearly. So grateful for this and everything you have taught us!

  3. It seems to be part of God’s plan that at the core of everything great in the Church and in the Christian life there is a certain redemptive suffering. It lays a foundation of humility and anoints the work ahead with the oil of the heavy, purposeful press.
    It doesn’t – ever – make it easy. But it gives it the weight of deep meaning and the buoyant lightness of union with Love himself.
    And it is always tempered by Mercy, isn’t it? When we feel that we can hardly breathe – we are filled with enough of his spirit to take one more breath and say another “yes.”
    Thank you for sharing this, Dan, but most of all thank you for each “yes” and each submission to each new suffering.
    I suspect that everything good you are growing now is fed by the roots beneath that cross.

    1. @claire – Your comments resonate with me with respect to the “core of everything great.” As I continue to journey through the writings of the saints, particularly the letters of Sts Teresa and Therese, the theme of suffering and redemption is constant. It struck me recently as I prepared for a Divine Intimacy Radio session. Thank you for your kind words.

  4. BTW – I should note that I didn’t correct the fact that I am no longer, by God’s grace, living with the constant pain I experienced for so many years before I wrote this. God is good in pain and joy.

  5. Dan, I was so touched by this that it took me a couple of days to make a comment. It is not easy to be vulnerable like you have been here. You have opened yourself up to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that you could share with us the deep truth of the infinite value of uniting our sufferings to the redemptive sufferings of Jesus Christ and to give glory and honour to God.

    Gratitude as a result of sufferings united to the sufferings of Jesus indicates a deep union with God and gives us the assurance that we are doing His Will. I continue to pray for more of this gratitude in my life.

    You are a model of deep maturity in the spiritual life. Thank you for being a witness to us and for showing us the Way!

  6. Wow. This is a wonderful and painful, even to read, testimony. I have been moved and can relate to all of it. Thank you for sharing.
    I wish i had something more profound to say on the matter but it has given me much to reflect on within my own life.
    God bless you.
    Thank God today and tomorrow.

  7. Thank you for this! A few years ago, in a painful moment, I heard the word “pain” substituted for “faith” in the hymn, “May We See You” while listening to the Divine Office:

    “May we see you in pain (faith)
    May we know you in pain (faith)
    Lord of Life, may we love You in pain (faith)”

    Funny thing is, this version doesn’t exist…


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