The “Power” of Pain

By: Cara Barth

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” ~ Victor Frankl

In the culture we currently live, the quick “fix” is what we think should happen, regardless of a painful situation. We want to just get through whatever we are dealing with and be done. We do not want to truly experience our pain, and we surely do not want to watch, listen, or be fully aware of others’ pain either. But is this healthy? Are we cheating ourselves and/or others of the “power” of a painful situation fully experienced? I believe we are!

Every story requires pain and suffering. If we do not allow ourselves or others to experience pain, we won’t change, because pain develops character.  Pain is the “Great Teacher.” Think about it. When you feel a twinge in your belly you eat. If you lie too long in bed and get stiff, you re-position yourself. Pain and discomfort makes you “move.”

How many times have you met someone who seems to have never had anything truly traumatic happen in their lives and you think, “Wow, they just don’t get it!” That’s because when someone experiences a loss or painful experience, it opens up the opportunity to relate to others on a whole different level.

Pain increases our awareness of suffering in the world and builds compassion around that experience toward others. Being able to look someone in the eyes and say, “I KNOW what you are feeling,” goes soul deep and brings connections that help us all endure our suffering.

“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school intelligence and make it a soul? “ ~ John Keats

A powerful example of the “life giving power of pain” was seen in the horrid place of Nazi Germany. The Jewish born psychologist, Victor Frankl believed the main pursuit of life was not pleasure but meaning. Humanity, in other words, was hardwired to search for meaning. Everyone wants to know that what they are experiencing has a purpose and meaning in the “bigger picture.”

In the concentration camps, prisoners weren’t allowed to stop their fellow prisoners from committing suicide. However, when Frankl saw someone beginning to lose hope, he would approach them. “What’s wrong?” he would ask. “Life has no meaning!” they would tell him. “The Nazis want to kill us. It would be better for me to be dead!” He told them the only thing he could think of, “If you don’t commit suicide, if you let the Nazis kill you, you will show the world they are evil. And you will help the world to never make the same mistake.”

So, what was the point of all this? He gave their suffering meaning. They were no longer victims. They would be martyrs. And because their suffering had meaning, they persevered and many prisoners survived to tell their stories.

When we go through a painful situation or event and allow ourselves the totality of that experience, we open opportunities to help others heal as well. By bringing meaning to the pain, you bring meaning to the pain of the world.

This is why people need our “story.” This is why it’s so important to share what we have gone through and allow others the opportunity to experience and share as well. Everyone wants to know they are not alone and that others suffer just like them.

The old saying of, “misery loves company” isn’t a call for cruelty in wanting others to feel pain, it’s a call of humanity in drawing close kindred spirits to walk out the pain together. We all want to know our suffering has a purpose, that there is hope and redemption. That there is life not just beyond the pain, but in the pain itself!

You think you’re just telling your story….But the truth is, you’re bringing LIFE!

 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…”  ~ James 1:2

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test…” ~ James 1:12


  1. Reply
    Lisa says

    Very true. Having gone through painful situations, learning how to work through them, I was blessed to meet people that had been there. They were able to help me. I became a blessing to others through these things as well. Very well stated.

    • Reply
      Cara says

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m so sorry you had the “pain” but as you know, paying it forward makes it a little less painful as well as helps us have a perspective of hope. Thank you for serving others and being part of the healing!

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