YanWhen 09-11-167

When We Hurt

Prayer, Preparation & Hope for Life's Pain


Philip Yancey

Zondervan, 2006, 127 pp.  ISBN 978-0-310-81058-2



During his twenty seven years of research and ministry among lepers in India, Dr. Paul Brand discovered that deformities occur from leprosy because it destroys the ability to sense pain.  Yancey teamed up with Brand to write the remarkable book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.  In this beautiful little gift book, Yancey presents some of Dr. Brand's most helpful writings on the topic of pain.


Few experiences in life are more universal than pain.  "I am convinced that the attitude we cultivate in advance may well determine how suffering will affect us when it does strike." (10)  We have the ability to step outside ourselves and self-reflect, which makes it possible to change the very landscape of the pain we experience.  We can learn to cope, and even to triumph.  (11)


"Pain is not the enemy, but the loyal scout announcing the enemy." (20)  "Pain is a priceless essential gift--of that I have no doubt.  And yet only by learning to master pain can we keep it from mastering us." (23)


Perception of pain is largely determined by competing inputs to the brain and the emotions and attitudes.  The mind can alter the perception of pain. (29)


No one can experience another person's pain.  It is the loneliest, most private sensation. (35)


Pain protects us from destroying ourselves.  Yet pain itself can destroy.  "The response to pain is in large degree learned."  "An active body, one that seeks challenges and pushes the limits of endurance, is best equipped to handle unexpected pain when it does occur--and to prepare for it in advance." (44)


Anxiety and depression can intensify pain.  Gratitude is the single response most nourishing to health.  (46)  Most pain centers include programs of relaxation and meditation.  (54) 


The best single way to prepare for pain to have a support group you can count on in emergencies.  (57)


"To a very large extent, the course of healing in any individual patient depends on what takes place in the mind."  (61)


We feel helpless and trust the medical experts too much and put too little trust in the most powerful healer, the human body.  (62) 


"Not everyone can master the skill of autosuggestion over pain.  But we should be encouraged enough to believe that, even if we cannot abolish a specific pain, we can probably make it hurt less….  All of us carry around atop our necks the amazing capacity for pain management." (68)


Barbara Wolf (Living with Pain) "recommends work, reading, humor, hobbies, pets, sports, volunteer work, or anything else that can divert the sufferer's mind from pain." (72)  Coping with chronic pain depends on a patient's willingness to exercise and increase productive activity despite the feeling of pain. (73) 


"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18


Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness intensify the conscious perception of pain. (79)  Fear is the strongest.   With a reduction of fear, pain may decrease.  If anger is allowed to fester in the mind and soul, it may poison the body, affecting pain and healing. (89)  "Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us." (90, quoting Marcus Aurelius)  Guilt compounds mental suffering. (93)  "The presence of a caring person can have an actual, measurable effect on pain and on healing." (96) "Standing side-by-side with patients and families in their suffering is a form of treatment in itself." (98) 


The attitudes of hope and optimism are most important emotional factors in fighting back against pain intensifiers. 


"Suffering is only intolerable when nobody cares."  (116, quoting Cicely Saunders)


"The Bible gives overwhelming emphasis to God's passionate involvement with creation.  It is virtually a catalog of God's emotions in relating to humanity.  From creation onward, God places himself in the position of an anxious Father whose children run free. … God voluntarily put himself in the position of being affected by creation.  Love involves giving, and God, self-complete, has only himself to give.  … By sending the Son to earth, God learned to feel pain in the same way we feel pain.  …  By looking at Jesus, we realize we have such a God.  He took on the limitation of time and space and family and pain and sorrow. …  God hears and understands our pain, and even absorbs it into himself--because he kept those scars of the crucifixion in his resurrected body as a lasting image of wounded humanity.  God has been here and has borne the sentence.  The pain of humanity has become the pain of God."  (117-119)


"Everywhere a greater joy is preceded by a greater suffering." (124, quoting Saint Augustine)


"I take comfort in the fact that somehow, in the mysterious resources of the human spirit, even pain can serve a higher end." (125)



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