I guest wrote this blog post for Wings of Refuge.
Wings of Refuge is a nonprofit in Iowa that serves women who have been commercially sexually exploited.
I imagine most people will agree with me when I say that we all hate pain. We don’t think fondly of it, wish for it, or enjoy it.
Our team attended the Exodus Cry Abolition Summit this month and one of the speakers told this true story:
Once there was a man who was doing ministry in a Leper Colony. One day, when in the dining hall the bell was rung signaling that dinner was ready for everyone, a man in the distance was seen standing on crutches with a broken ankle.
This man wanted to be the first to receive his meal, and so he began to run as fast as he could down the field that separated him from this building. He hobbled along the best that he could, before he became frustrated and threw down the crutches that were slowing him down. He ran on his broken foot the remainder of the way and sure enough, he was the first to arrive at the building. When he stood at the doorway, he looked down to discover that his foot had broken even more, bone exposed and in very bad shape.
The thing about Leprosy is, contrary to common belief, does not cause limbs to fall off of one’s body. Instead, it causes damage to the nerves and in turn, the loss of feeling or sensation. Because of this, pain, injury, or damage may go unnoticed and you may not feel pain that can warn you of harm to your body.
Pain is a necessary alarm system within our body, mind, and spirit that signals to us that something is wrong and that a change or action is required in order to save yourself from further injury or damage.
At Wings of Refuge, when a participant is experiencing pain it can be easy for us as staff members to want to attempt to remedy that pain with distractions or whatever it is we feel she needs in that moment.
After all, that’s our job, isn’t it? Not exactly…
As difficult as it can be to watch someone walk through painful circumstances or deal with painful consequences, and although we can offer advice and suggest changes or solutions, many times, the pain they’re feeling is going to be the motivation for change and transformation.
Part of our role in her restoration is helping her nerve damage heal and repair so that she can recognize it and understand it. The trauma that she has perhaps become numb to as a defense mechanism that still needs to be stitched and bandaged and given the space and time to heal.
You see, although God does not desire pain for us, He will use it if we allow Him to. Our response to pain signals can refine us, mature us, and bring us closer to Christ. In the Bible, Job, who endured unspeakable suffering, said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” God allows us to experience pain in our humanity so that we will turn to the hope that is in His sovereignty.