Pain & Gratitude

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By Cole Mills

Pain has been a constant companion in my life at some level or another. Whether it was being raised in a single parent household, the sport (wrestling) that I choose, or the deaths of both my parents. Pain has always been there, shaping and molding me. I would not say that I enjoy pain, but I will say that I see benefit in it, as it has the ability to make clear the love and peace of God in ways that I challenge you to seek out.

As I said pain has been a constant in my life. When I was born my biological father had no desire to be in the picture. And a father figure never really stepped into my life until I was 8. When my step dad came into the picture things were good for a while, but that didn’t last. A disease that manifested itself within my dad slowly turned him into a different man, an angry and absent man. Then came wrestling, full of the disappointments that all athletes experience. After that was a toxic relationship, overflowing with sin and immorality, but little did I know that those events where just the beginning. It was after my experiences with my parents’ deaths, my step dad and my mother, that I began to see that my life was to have a special bond with pain. Which leads me here, writing this.

After my parents’ deaths, a man much smarter than I pointed out Romans 5:1-5.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

What that verse showed me was that we as special creations of God have an option, we can let our pain control us and our lives, or we can find the peace of God and rejoice in the HOPE of His glory. As a man in the midst of pain himself, I must say, it is difficult to see this hope and feel this peace. This is because pain is like a fog, its thick and disorienting, it clouds your vision, your emotions, and the closeness of a loving God. It can rob you of the gratitude that you once had for living. However, this verse also communicates opportunity. An opportunity every day to work closer and closer to hope. This passage even gives you steps! Tribulation to perseverance to character to hope.

I am not saying that I don’t struggle, I am not saying that everything is “okay,” and I am certainly not saying that our pain, grief, trauma, or whatever else is not valid. What I am saying is that God is there, in our pain, but because of the fog that clouds our eyes we can fail to see Him standing there with us.

For those who are so deep into your pain that you wonder what gratitude may look like let me share with you how God brought me back to a life of gratitude.

My mother loved flowers, who doesn’t they’re beautiful. Like flowers my mother was the beauty of God’s love in my life. After she died, I lost sight of that beauty. It was a few months later that I started noticing flowers, flowers everywhere. And when I saw those flowers all I could hear was ““I’m here. Even in this tiny detail, this tiny splash of color, that little spot of brightness you didn’t know you missed. I’m here, I’m with you.” After a few weeks of this, it was clear that God was showing me through these flowers that His beauty was still here. That is how God brought me back into His gratitude.

Pain doesn’t always hide beauty, sometimes it magnifies it. If you search out your pain deeply, you are likely to find beauty. It is because of that beauty that I find I have gratitude in my pain.

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