Like many Americans, I think a lot about the problem of pain. There’s my own lower back pain that has mostly disappeared but showed up most nights for many years. There’s my father’s last ten years of surgeries and recoveries for his own back and the daily pain he lives with. There’s the opioid crisis that isn’t just in the headlines but has had devastating effects in our own local community. And then there’s the pain that goes beyond individuals–the collective pain of a nation with deep wounds crying out for healing, especially when it comes to social divisions.
I could (and someday I hope to) write about pain and healing for hours, but for today I just want to recommend three podcast episodes I’ve listened to lately that offer fascinating insights into the problem of pain, the purpose of pain, and the potential for freedom from pain.
- Nathan Foster interviews Philip Yancey about Yancey’s newly updated book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made on the Renovare podcast. They talk about what Yancey learned about physical bodies in pain and then about how we can apply that knowledge to the more metaphorical Biblical concept of the body of Christ. Yancey says, “ A healthy body is not one that feels no pain. A healthy body is one that attends to the pain of its weakest part.” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/renovar%C3%A9-podcast-with-nathan-foster/id917771018?i=1000450016943
- Erik Vance talks with Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast about the way our brains already have pain-relieving medication within them, and how when we believe that healing will happen or is possible, our brain will often do the necessary work to repair our bodies and alleviate pain. Vance grew up as a Christian Scientist and is now a science journalist (who no longer practices Christian Science) and he brings a fascinating scientific/spiritual perspective to the problem of pain: https://onbeing.org/programs/erik-vance-the-drugs-inside-your-head/
- This is the one that really blew my mind: Invisabilia’s episode called The Fifth Vital Sign looks at a cohort of teenage girls who experience pain that spreads uncontrollably through their bodies and the seemingly harsh treatment they endure to try to rewire their brains. At first it seems as though the “answer” to their pain is just to keep a stiff upper lip, but in time it becomes clear that yes, they need to push through the pain, but they also need to express their feelings (not their feelings about the pain–their feelings about their lives). Healing comes through ignoring the pain but attending to the feelings. I think. Again, this one’s a little trippy and left me with lots of questions but is totally worth listening to: https://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/701219878/the-fifth-vital-sign