Monday, November 12, 2007

Pain with a Purpose

In 1988, my husband and I attended natural childbirth classes in anticipation of the arrival of our firstborn child.   I remember one of the films we watched described labor as "pain with a purpose."

Although I resented the statements that described labor pains as "discomfort" or "tightening" instead of mind-searing, gut-wrenching agony – I did appreciate the concept of pain with a purpose.   We marched into the labor room armed with a wedding photo as a focal point and tapes full of soothing music like Pachelbel's Canon in D Major and Handel's Water Music.   Hours and hours later, our son Christopher was born.   The concept of pain with a purpose helped me handle a difficult labor, and unlike Alex in A Clockwork Orange, I still enjoy classical music without experiencing physical pain.

Labor was the most intense physical pain I've ever experienced, but it wasn't the worst pain I have experienced.   The worst pain came a year earlier, when I lost our first baby in an ectopic pregnancy.

We had suffered through infertility treatments for 18 months before I had the joy of finding two faint blue lines on the home pregnancy test.   I was ecstatic.   Everything looked sharper.   Colors appeared brighter.   The world held great promise – for five glorious days.

That's when I started spotting.   Then the pain began.   Five days, two trips to the emergency room, two ultrasounds, and a hospital stay later, the doctors told me I was probably miscarrying and sent me home.   The following day, I ruptured.   The pain was excruciating, right up until the time I passed out.   I was in surgery for two and a half hours.   In recovery, while I was still out of my head from the anesthesia, my husband recalls I chanted over and over "It hurts. It hurts. It hurts."

But what really hurt was that, on top of all the physical pain, we had lost our baby, and I had lost a fallopian tube.   The chances of ever having another child were reduced, and I was desolate.   All that pain had no purpose, or at least no good purpose that I could discern.

A friend recently reminded me of the story of Joseph (the one with the Technicolor Dreamcoat).   You can read the story in the book of Genesis, Chapters 37, and 39-48.   Joseph's envious brothers sold him into slavery.   Once in Egypt, his master Potiphar's wife falsely accused Joseph of attacking her.   Potiphar cast Joseph into prison.

I can't imagine the pain of that betrayal by his own brothers or the fear that prison brought.   Personally, I would have been bitterly angry and would have railed against the injustice.   But Joseph was confident that God had a purpose for everything that happened, and he patiently continued to serve God in whatever way he could.

Joseph's faith was rewarded.   God used Joseph to interpret Pharoah's dreams.   Because of Joseph, the nation of Egypt was saved from famine – as was the nation of Israel.   When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, they were afraid.   But Joseph told them:

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.   For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.   But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.   Genesis 45:5-7.

God eventually revealed His purpose to Joseph, but before he knew God's intent, Joseph trusted that the Lord had a purpose for his difficulties.   It is easier to handle pain, to give thanks through adversity, if you know there is a purpose.   Most of us don't have the luxury of knowing that our pain has a purpose.   Or do we?   Let's explore that next.


Daniel Spurgeon said...

Hi, thanks for sharing that article. My wife also had a miscarriage while she was carrying twins- it was emotionally devasting for her for awhile. We have a deep Christian faith as well- so we trust that God knows all and knows what we can handle and what we need. I like some of your references in your article- such as the reference to Alex in a Clockwork Orange. This is the only entry that I have read of yours thus far- I am looking forward to read your other entries.

Chanticleer said...


Thanks for the encouraging words. I'm sorry to hear of your loss, but your faith is well-founded. Hold fast to each other along the way.

In spite of all our infertility problems, we went on to have four children. God has an amazing sense of humor.

I'm apt to make strange references. I have a random-access mind. :-)