In his book, “Leadership Pain: God’s Classroom for Growth,” Sam Chand writes, “Pain isn’t the enemy. The inability or unwillingness to face pain is a far greater danger.” He then tells the story of Dr. Paul Brand who was treating a four year old named Tanya at the national leprosy hospital in Carville, LA. As he examined her dislocated ankle, he noticed she appeared bored and felt no pain at all. She was diagnosed with congenital indifference to pain, a condition similar to leprosy. Years later, he learned that Tanya had lost both legs to amputation and most of her fingers. Her elbows were constantly dislocated and she suffered sepsis from ulcers. She chewed her tongue so badly that it was swollen and lacerated. Her father had abandoned the family calling Tanya a monster. Dr. Band writes, “Tanya is no monster, only an extreme example – a human metaphor really, of life without pain.” One night after a flight to London, Dr. Brand went to his hotel room and began to undress. When he took off his shoes, he realized he had no sensation in his foot. The numbness terrified him. He stuck a pin in the skin below his ankle and there was no pain. He pushed it deeper into his flesh until blood appeared and still no pain. All night, he tossed and turned wondering if he had caught leprosy. How would it affect his personal life? Would he have to leave his personal family and live in a colony? The next morning when he awakened, he picked up a pin and stuck it into his ankle. This time, he yelled because it really hurt!
From that day forward, whenever he felt discomfort from a cut or anything else, he responded with genuine gratitude, “Thank God for pain!” And then Samuel Chand writes, “Paradoxically, Christians often have more difficulty handling personal pain than unbelievers. They look at the promises of God and conclude that God should fill their lives with joy, love, support and success. That’s reading the Bible selectively. The Scriptures state – clearly and often – that enduring pain is one of the ways, perhaps the main way, God works his grace deeply into our lives.” People strive for happiness in their lives but are formed through suffering and often at the hands of criticism. Even if the criticism is untrue, ask: God what are you trying to accomplish by this in my life? So our response to pain shouldn’t be to avoid it but to embrace it by trying to redeem something bad by turning it into something sacred. For in all things works God for good. Embracing the pain of criticism is never easy or painless, but it is the path to holiness and a means by which God’s purposes can be fulfilled in us.