Hello friends, you know life is full of pain because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes the process of confronting and solving problems can be uncomfortable. Depending upon their nature, problems can bring up feelings of sadness, grief, guilt, frustration, loneliness, anger, regret, anxiety, anguish, fear or despair. A study from the University of Michigan Medical School has found that the body produces natural painkillers in response to social rejection, just as if it had suffered a physical injury (Hsu et al., 2013).
While lying in a PET scanner, patients were told that they had been rejected by a romantic interest. The scans showed that in response to being rejected the brain sent out painkillers in the form of opioids into the spaces between neurons. (the brain experienced pain – and sent pain killers to relieve it). One of the authors, Professor Jon-Kar Zubieta explained: “It is possible that those with depression or social anxiety are less capable of releasing opioids during times of social distress, and therefore do not recover as quickly or fully from a negative social experience.” Who said love doesn’t hurt?
This is further evidence that social pain is not as different from physical pain as many thought. More and more research is pointing to an overlap in the brain’s response to both. While it is almost a comfort to see that science confirms what many intuitively know through their own experience, it still does not solve the problem of pain. It is because of the pain that events or conflicts engender in us all that we call them problems. And since life poses an endless series of problems, life will always have challenges for us to overcome, as well as pain and joy.
Yet it is in the very process of facing and tackling the challenges of life that we find what God is able to do through us. Not only do we find what God is capable of doing through us, but what He is capable of doing in us. Problems are merely an instrument that bring forth our courage, inner strength, perseverance, fortitude, discipline, and wisdom which allow us to be molded, formed, and purified into His image. It is exactly because of the challenges we face that we grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
I often tell my patients to view any problem as though they are hiking a mountain. Their focus is to just take the next step in front of them. When we focus on taking just the next step, what happens is that over time, we forget how far we have to go, and how far we have come. Soon, as you continue to take one step at a time, without even realizing it, you have arrived at the top. As you stand at the top of the mountain and you look down, you see that dark, dungy, cold valley and you say to yourself, “Now why would anyone want to stay there?” As you look around and realize that you are on top of this beautiful, majestic mountain where the air is fresh, the sun is shining, and your perspective has totally changed, you realize that the only way you got there was by taking one step at a time.
What many people don’t realize is that in facing that mountain and by taking one step at a time, it is with each step that is taken that you grow stronger. Your quad’s and hamstrings grow stronger, your calves became stronger, your lung capacity grows stronger and as you slowly climbed higher your body adjusted to the altitude and your bodies ability to utilize oxygen and improve in it’s overall efficiency greatly improved. As you are are standing there, you realize that you’ve never felt better!
You look back down at that dark, dungy valley and wonder why in the world you were ever there? Now, as you look around your eyes are open to the majesty of all that God has created, and you cannot help but weep at the beauty of His creation! The crisp air, the majestic peaks, the piercing sunlight and perhaps even a rare glimps of a soaring eagle.
Step – by – step. One foot after the other. The choice that you made to face your “mountain” – whatever it might be – grew you. You have come further, farther, and are stronger, more equipped, and oh so much wiser!
Friends, this simple analogy of life is elementary – yet many people stay stuck in the valley of their problems because they choose not to take the next step and walk up that mountain. Either by ignoring, procrasting, hoping or praying it will go away, or even pretending it doesn’t exist (denial) many people live their life in the stinky valley and miss out on so much that God has for them. Carl Jung said it so eloquently “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”
Part of spiritual wholeness and growth comes from facing and dealing with the issues that affect your life. When you avoid them, you remain stuck, stunted, and stinky. Contrary to what many think, the pathway to growth can be very rewarding when you find a safe, trusted confidant whom you have a heart-to-heart connection with. The blessings will slowly overshadow the problems, and with God as your pilot leading, guiding and directing your footsteps, you will grow stronger, more confident and more wise, each and every day.
Allow the Word of God to be your map, and get out those hiking shoes! 🙂
Dr. Christy 🙂