Last week I had a minor cycling accident and wound up with some nasty bruises. A few days later I was getting adjusted by my chiropractor and mentioned that I was going to take some Tylenol to alleviate the pain so that I could go to the gym. His response surprised me. He told me that masking the pain would only cause me to ignore what the pain was telling me – to slow down and heal. “Pain has a purpose,” he said. “It’s telling you something. Listen to it.”
While there is certainly a time to take medication for pain, our conversation left me wondering how often I try to run away from both emotional and physical pain. How often do I ignore it or mask it, and miss what pain is trying to tell me?
When we wrestle with our pain rather than running from it or trying to mask it we often learn what Jacob learned – God wrestles with us. Not to pin us or punish us but to change us, to transform us into someone new. Truth is we don’t usually grow through pleasure; we grow through pain. We do a great disservice to God and to ourselves when we reduce God to a cosmic analgesic rather than a wrestling partner.
Author Brene Brown said that it was an emotional breakdown that drove her back to church after many years of being away. She writes, “I wanted faith to work like an epidural; to numb the pain of vulnerability. As it turned out, my faith ended up being more like a midwife – a nurturing partner who leans into the discomfort with me and whispers “push” and “breathe.” Faith didn’t make my life less vulnerable or comfortable; it simply offered to travel with me through the uncertainty.” 
What pain are you running from or trying to mask? I want to challenge you to stop. Breathe deeply and lean into the pain. Listen to what it’s saying. More importantly, listen to what God is saying as God wrestles with your heart. What might God be birthing in you?
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN http://brenebrown.com/2011/02/09/201129faith-doubt-and-inspiration-html/