[This article is part of a mindfulness series we have been writing about for years. Click the link to check out all of the other articles we have here.]
Pain is a part of life and can’t always be avoided. We see it within the choices we make like using drugs, quitting a job, impulsively yelling at someone, or ending a relationship. Other times, bad things happen to us that causes us pain, such as hurricanes, domestic violence from others, or even this COVID-19 pandemic. Pain is a result of the fall and something unavoidable.
Not dealing with this pain will then lead to suffering which can create more pain. The question I want to address is, how are Christians dealing with pain and suffering?
Dialectic Behavioral Therapy In Counseling
In the counseling world, there is a counseling therapy called Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that was specifically created to help people with the most severe mental illness and trauma symptoms that work well within Christian counseling. Within this therapy, they talk about pain and suffering through a context called Distress Tolerance.
If you can’t deal with your pain, you may act impulsively. When you act impulsively, you may end up hurting yourself or someone else. Most of us find ways to manage our emotions, but many of us have never learned how to effectively cope and at the same time avoid crisis situations from getting worse. These techniques can be used when feeling distressed, when emotions become overwhelming, and when you have difficulty managing situations effectively.
How Can Christians Use This?
A single blog article cannot cover all of this, we may explore future options to do more of this as you can use a DBT skill of imagery technique with stations of the cross or reading Scripture and mindfulness with breath prayers. But we will start the conversation with the foundations with regards to pain and suffering.
Distress tolerance has three components in DBT with acceptance, reframing, and meaning. Here is a Christian interpretation of these components.
- Acceptance: The conversation of acceptance as of recent has been difficult within Christian theology. We have Scripture of Luke 6:37 and John 6:37 that focuses on Jesus’ words commanding us to accept others. Further, a conversation of God’s love for us and accepting us in spite of our sins after we repent and receive the gift of Jesus’ death for our sins is the heart of the Church. The tension comes in that we must have wisdom in discernment as we see in 1 John 4:1 or John 7:24. Further, our acceptance of God being in control, the fall of man that has led to the presence of sin in our lives, and that death leads to heaven or hell in our lives.
- Reframing: The reframing, how we perceive situations that cause pain and suffering, has specific Christian responses and understanding. We see the pain of what is happening right now with coronavirus and we could have fear if we look at it through a secular view or we can find hope in God, that He knows and understands what is going on. Romans 12:2 is a perfect reference for this:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
- Meaning: Within DBT, it is discussed that pain doesn’t make life worthless. Within this, I could point to David or Elijah’s depression where we are able to have Biblical meaning. But the example of Jesus having meaning even from pain, not only at His death, but even the pain of birth after He left heaven to become a perfect sacrifice is an understanding of how our pain has meaning. We do not intentionally seek out pain for the sake of pain, but embrace the consequences of our choices and this life and use them for the glory of God.
At this time, we want to ask you your thoughts on how Christians should handle pain and how they could look differently at this. Leave your comment down below.