“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
~ Joseph Campbell
Pain is not good. We all know that intuitively. We do everything that we can to avoid pain. Even our very nervous system is hard-wired to avoid pain. If we touch something hot, we jerk away from it lest we become burned. If we touch something sharp, we quickly move away lest we become cut. We do all that we can to protect ourselves physically.
We are the same emotionally. If someone hurts us, we tend to avoid that person. If we decide to trust them and they hurt us again, we most likely take them off of our list of friends. We also do everything that we can to avoid hurtful situations in life. There are many people who cannot visit family or friends in hospitals or nursing homes because the places themselves bring up a lot of bad memories and experiences. Because of that, they avoid those places even if it means not seeing loved ones who are in them.
We want to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable spiritually as well. Many a saint has talked about the “dark night of the soul” in which they experienced the driest times of their spiritual lives and felt that God was nowhere to be found. The experiences were extremely painful for them and they wanted to have nothing to do with them (though they acknowledged that they generally grew even closer to God because of them). Nonetheless, entering the spiritual desert was the last thing on their “to do” list.
Whenever we are in pain, we look for a release from it. If we could not avoid pain — many of us end up breaking bones, spraining joints, having surgeries of all kinds — we would try to find something to manage the pain until we felt better. The first thing we turn to, as a rule, is medication. We find that medication has problems of its own. For all the good that it can do, it also has side effects, some are quite serious.
The professionals tell us that there is another way to manage our pain: laughter. They have found that if a person can be involved in a session of laughter that lasts for five or ten minutes, the level of endorphins in the person rise significantly and naturally help deal with the pain.
Just as laughing can help take away physical pain, joy can help take away emotional or spiritual pain. Even if we feel low, if there is a moment that brings some joy into our lives, we find ourselves uplifted. I would daresay that there is always an opportunity for joy in our lives. Even when we are feeling blue, there are things that bring us joy. For some, it might be family. For others, it might be music. For others, it might be nature.
Know the things that bring you joy so that, when you are feeling “down for the count,” you will have the chance to lift yourself back up again. God does not want us to feel miserable which is why He created all sorts of opportunities for joy in our lives. Do not be afraid to utilize them in order to maintain yourself.
FAITH ACTION: Pray for all of those who experience pain — physical, emotional, spiritual — on a regular basis and ask God to fill them with a peace and joy that will help them manage their pain.