Monday, December 24, 2012

Productive pain

Pain is something we all go through as human beings. Be it physical or emotional, pain is something that none of us are exempt from. Sometimes we find ourselves in pain as a result of our own stupid choices, other times we find ourselves in pain through no fault of our own whatsoever and due to circumstances beyond our control. How we respond to pain, however, is up to us - we can choose to sit and suffer with it forever or use it for our own gain and for the gain of others.

As I've said before, one of my favorite movie trilogies is Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Brilliant movies in every sense. One of the most powerful examples of someone using pain productively is Christopher Nolan's depiction of Bruce Wayne (who of course leads a double life as Batman) played brilliantly by Christian Bale. He was forced to watch the deliberate murder of his parents as a helpless young boy, unable to stop the man who killed his parents in front of him.

This deeply affected Bruce - the anger and the guilt that it was his fear that lead them to the darkened alleyway where they were murdered, plus his distress about being too little and helpless to do anything about it. Bruce was in pain - terrible pain. He could have sat around and moped for the rest of his life and done nothing with the pain other than suffer from it - but his pain motivated him to travel the world and learn about both himself and the criminal mind. His deep hatred of injustice and criminality drove him to train as a ninja and finally return to Gotham as the masked vigilante Batman who fought with everything he had to clean up the streets and by all accounts did a pretty incredible job. By the end of his time as Batman he gave his life to save the city (or so the people thought) and ended up having a statue erected in his honor, while he secretly began a new life on the other side of the world, married and happy.

Bruce spent years living in darkness and in pain as a result of his parents death and he used that pain to drive him to do something that had a lasting impact in the city he grew up in - an impact that remained long after he departed. Eventually he was able to let go of the pain and anger and move forwards with his life but while he was still stuck in that dark place he used his pain as a vehicle to bring good into the world around him. This is a prime example of someone dealt a bitter hand by life yet managed to find a productive outlet for his pain and in his pain, the productivity it produced created something amazing. Even though it's (obviously) only a fictional story, it's a powerful message nonetheless.

A true example of productive pain was King David in the bible. Relentlessly and unjustly pursued by Saul, David fled into the caves and hid from Saul's men in a desperate attempt to save his own life. David knew he had done nothing to deserve any of this and that he did not belong in these darkened caves yet he had been forced there anyway, due to the sinful actions of another person. He could easily have spent that time just sulking and moping around, being depressed. Instead he chose to turn that pain into productivity by writing the Psalms. Some of the Psalms speak of great light and peace - others however are irredeemably dark and introspective. David's brutal honesty with both God and himself throughout this time of terrible pain (which did pass eventually) created a powerful legacy which has spread worldwide and still speaks to people thousands of years after David's death. If that's not pain at it's productive best then I don't know what is.

I have spent my life in terrible pain. Even most of my years as a Christian were spent wondering what on earth was so wrong with me and why I was constantly in almost unbearable inner tension and agony. I couldn't see a sense and a purpose in my life - until God put it on my heart that I was to write a book and tell my story to the world - a story which has now been picked up by a major publishing firm in the USA. Writing the book was very hard - it sapped an enormous amount of my time and energy, so much so that over a year after finishing writing the book I still haven't found the energy to put any serious effort into the follow up. The book was written in a very dark place, where the pain and confusion were beginning to become overwhelming. Then, the final revelation which was the key to the tension I'd struggled with my whole life was revealed to me when I was right at the end of writing it and not only did it give me an epic conclusion to the book but it was the beginning of a better life for me.

Now that I am getting better all the time, I am realizing that the time for the terrible pain in my life has finally passed. But I used it in the most productive way that I believe I possibly could - the book I have written in this time is not something that could have been written out of a happy, peaceful heart. It was written by who I used to be - a turbulent, dysfunctional soul. But the work that has come out of that time has the power to really change people's lives. I believe it could leave a real, lasting legacy for me and could really count towards my dream of having my life count for something. Not to say that there hasn't been casualties for me along the way in this journey - there certainly has been. But I realize now that my pain has had a far greater purpose than what I could have imagined.

If you are going through pain today - ask God to help you understand the pain and why you are facing it. Ask Him to help you turn it into productivity. You never know who you might reach and what kind of legacy the productive output from your pain may leave behind you.

Take care and Merry Christmas.


  1. Hi Graham

    It can indeed be tough going through pain especially when it is over a prolonged period of time. From experience I know that such times can test our faith in God - yet He never promised that He would give us an easy ride, He did promise that in the end it would be worth it. And however it might feel, God walks with us every step of the way.

    Thanks for sharing this. It takes courage to do so I'm sure.

    Jeanette O'Hagan

  2. I'm hearing you, Ian. Looking forward to reading the product of your dealing with pain. I have a manuscript like that too - which I used to search out some deep questions in my own life - and it too gave me revelation and changed everything. I love how God works like that.

    Oh and by the way, I love the Batman movies too. So very moving I thought. :)

  3. Thanks so much for your encouragement, Jeanette and Amanda. It means a lot. My book is going to be published, printed and distributed by Creation House publishing in the USA and should be available late Feb/early March but the existing self published version is currently available on Amazon at this link -