Encountering God in Our Pain


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The many ways we suffer in our bodies impacts how we see God and experience transformation. We often neglect to learn from our bodies, neglect to pay attention to what we learn from them about God and the world, even in our bodily pain and difficulty. We often see the suffering we experience in our bodies or the physical difficulties we encounter as a block to spiritual growth, an obstacle to be removed rather than an opportunity to encounter God and experience transformation.

Science tells us that our experience of physical pain is deeply impacted by the life of our minds, our faith, and our emotions. Not only does our pain impact us emotionally, but our framework for understanding the world impacts the way our bodies feel and interpret pain. The interplay between our bodies and the structures of meaning that we create is powerful. What we believe about the world, the reason for our suffering, or even who we understand God to be actually impacts our physical experience of pain. Our pain can unmask our frameworks of meaning, our very understanding of the world, and conversely, our structures of meaning can change our experiences in our bodies.

We will all suffer. Our choice is this: will the fire consume and destroy us, or will it be an unlikely tool for our redemption and a place where we encounter God? Our suffering can, in the hands of the God who meets us in the depths of our pain, become the very thing that saves us. For we know that our Redeemer lives. We know that he has passed through death and destroyed its power. We know that by his wounds we have been healed.

We are not guaranteed an easy life when we follow Christ. Our faith is not a means to prosperity or health. We are called by Jesus to take up our cross daily and follow him. Our suffering, the difficulties we encounter in our bodies are an opportunity to be met with God’s very presence; they are an opportunity to examine the way we understand who we are, and who God is. Our suffering becomes invested with meaning through our identification with Jesus, the man who took on our dust, and carried our sorrows on his shoulders.


This week, we want to try to provide more space for God to meet us through our physical discomfort. This will mostly be a prayerful exercise, but be open to God nudging you to a particular action as one means of following through on our prayer. We start by noticing an area of pain or difficulty that we are currently experiencing in our body. Take a minute to clarify to yourself exactly what the pain or difficulty is and then invite God to meet you in the midst of this pain. Try to take a few minutes to sit with God in your pain or difficulty. You might ask God how he looks at your pain, how he looks at you with this pain?  Is he present or absent, is he encouraging or discouraging, is he ahead of you, alongside you, behind you?  Is he showing love, kindness, mercy?

Is anyone else coming to mind while you are praying?  Is this someone who might be a source of help to you, or is it someone in need?  How is God towards this other person, if one has come to mind?  Sit with this possibility for a minute or two.

Do you feel an urge towards some action with respect to your own situation or towards someone else? Is this nudge coming from God or somewhere else?  If you discern that the nudge is from God, how do you feel about it?  Share this feeling with God.  If you decide to follow through on God’s request, you might ask God for help in following through.  If you can’t accept God’s request, share this with God.

At the end of your time of prayer, you might show your gratitude to God in some way.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: spiritual.practices@annarborvineyard.org.

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