Follow Us

A critical mass of redeemed pain

Pain teaches us the value of things. Some folks have to go bankrupt before they live according to a budget. Endure a few months of unemployment and you’ll be thankful for whatever job you can land. Fast for a week and when you finally eat, the food seems so much sweeter.   Yet this is a l…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Pain teaches us the value of things. Some folks have to go bankrupt before they live according to a budget. Endure a few months of unemployment and you’ll be thankful for whatever job you can land. Fast for a week and when you finally eat, the food seems so much sweeter.
Yet this is a lesson wasted on a generation of parents who have raced around behind their children with pillows to protect them when they fall. When their children never feel the consequences of their actions, they don’t learn the hard lesson of changing their behavior. English philosopher Herbert Spencer said it well, “The ultimate result of
shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with
As long as the pain in our lives never reaches a critical mass, we will continue down the same path. That’s why rehab programs wait for an addict to “hit bottom” before working with them. Until an addict reaches a certain pain threshold, he won’t commit to the hard work that rehab requires. Instead, he’ll game the system. He needs to get to a point where he says, “The pain of what I’m doing is too high. It would be better if I just committed to changing. As impossible as change may seem, I can’t keep going on like this.”
But pain alone is not enough – it must be accompanied by an alternative with some hope attached to it. Rats in a cage who receive random shocks eventually give up trying to fight. We need to see that a way out is possible. We need to experience grace – the redemption of our pain. We’ll put up with a lot of pain if we can at some point see it transformed and used for some greater good.
Some folks experience so much pain that they go into self-protective mode, unable to see even the possibility that the mists of their discouragement might lift to reveal the sunshine of hope. Pain can feel so relentless that we’ll do anything to numb ourselves or self-medicate. Thus, we retreat into a bottle or into depression or into neurosis. We go to a place where it’s hard to imagine a God who might care.
Larry was a guy like that. Last week he showed up on a blog entitled “God, I am sorry,” with this comment:
GOD, I am sorry for my whole life. Everything I have done, said, thought
has been nothing but one entire regret, every memory I have. Everything
I have ever came into contact with has been sullied by me being here.
My existence has been a blot on GOD. Nothing more to say. Life is one
huge regret, living is one huge weight of tears, and death is an
eternity of suffering beyond this. I don’t expect you to take my apology
or even care, The world is too full of those who deserve your
When things are going well in our lives, it’s hard to imagine that people like Larry are locked in such an impossibly dark and painful place.
Who are the people in your life who’ve experienced so much pain that they’re struggling even to find hope? They need those of us who are walking in freedom to enter into their place of pain and join Jesus in his redemption project.

Comments (13)

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    Yep. After my motorcycle accident, there were some good people who entered into that recovery with me. Especially my wife.

  • This is so true, especially the part about shielding our kids from consequences. We have two adult sons who are dealing with the consequences of choices they have made, in part, shaped by our lack of allowing them to experience and learn consequences when they were younger. How I regret that, because the consequences are much larger now and they are well enmeshed in addictive thinking and behavior. But I can still be a conduit of grace, through holding the line, loving much and walking alongside, and providing enough assistance and encouragement to provide an ember of hope.

    We have two younger daughters with whom we are doing a better job of holding the line. Far gentler to hold the line on sassiness by spending time in one’s room, rather than a blatant defiance that would merit jail time later on. Or not being able to find the clean field hockey socks because, well, they are buried in a heap of dirty laundry, than losing a security deposit to slovenliness.


    Hope and grace, Praise God.

  • “Jesus in his redemption project.” Might be my favorite invitation ever. So well put. Thanks.

  • Thanks for this Seth.

    People who follow Jesus and are part of His tribe need to know the painful joy of deep suffering.

    I don’t trust people who are not broken.

    And the road to heaven is not smooth.

  • Just thinking out loud a bit here. I wonder if largely opposition to pain is an American church issue? Everything I read about regarding tragedy, suffering, and so on, in other countries seems to be more accepted as a part of life. It’s reality. Maybe it’s just me…I don’t know.

    The Scriptures teach that Jesus was perfected through suffering and that, for the (future) joy set before Him He endured the (present) suffering of the cross. Jesus also said that the student can never be greater than the master. It stands to reason that if the Master, Jesus, was perfected through suffering, so will those who truly follow Him. Suffering as a part of developing maturity, therefore, should not be foreign in any culture.

    In my own life, the message of hope and revelation that God is truly LORD over every circumstance shines through during times of conflict. I love this statement: “As long as the pain in our lives never reaches a critical mass, we will continue down the same path.” Another way I think of this is “I will only change what I will no longer tolerate.” Only when pain in my life reaches “critical mass” am I at a point of no longer tolerating its cause. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord! Because His grace is sufficient for me, I can have joy in the journey…wherever it may lead me. It is a hard but necessary lesson to learn. Father help me.

    Peace and Blessings…


  • This post will linger. Comments too. Thank you Seth. Over Mother’s Day weekend my eyes were opened to Jesus in his pending redemptive project in someone’s life whose name I barely know–someone who is “hurting but open”.

    It was a sweet reminder to look beyond my felt needs and follow my Savior. Seems the very things that grieve can be the pathway to blessing both in my life and in someone else’s.

  • I enjoyed this post and sadden at the same time. I guess it is the part of me that hears a man in despair, feeling there is no hope and sitting weeping with him and feeling his pain knowing it is real. Sometimes, we live in a bubble of a world when all is well and Dear Lord forgive us as we start to forget what you have done for us. We are to go forth and share the light that has been given to us and spread that hope and faith. My prayer is may the good Lord show us, teach us, guide us, and keep us humble in spirit to never forget what he has done, to shine as the light to someone hurting to the point of giving up. Oh may we not give up on them and lose hope ourselves. Many times when pain reaches this level and don’t even know about it judgment can come forth, when someone reaches the end point, may a non-judgmental hand be there to show the Grace and the Mercy of God. Sometimes we do get to place the only thing we can do is say Jesus!!! If someone is hurting God has given us a spirit to show his love and may our eyes and hearts be open to these opportunities to drop what we are doing reach out and help the one in need.

    God Bless

  • Consider the design by God revealed in Gen 2, ” it is not good for the man to be alone”. Before sin, walking with God himself, not good because no HUMAN relationship. We humans are all Designed that way. Figure out how to eliminate “alone” and figure out how to show love. Just being there may be the best possible thing you do.

  • I was reminded recently, that sometimes, “presence” is all that is needed. When someone is so broken down, full of pain and in darkness, asking “Where is God?” can only be answered by my willingness to sit a while, shed some tears, offer whatever encouragement I can but truly just being there can give the reply…”Here I am”

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Radical Living:

Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

© Adventures In Missions. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | RSS Feed | Sitemap