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growing pains

My job, and my passion, is to sit with people who are suffering. The suffering takes many forms: the heartbreak of a failing marriage, the fear of a child’s drug addiction, the shame of sexual abuse, the pain of depression. At some point during a client’s treatment and recovery, I am asked, “Why? Why do I have to feel this pain? Why do I have to go through this horrible experience?"

At the appropriate time, I gently offer the possibility that there is meaning to all of our suffering.

I remember when I was a young child, maybe five or six years old, and I would wake in the night with a terrible pain in my shins. I can still feel the throbbing and aching in my little legs and the frustration of not being able to sleep because of it. I’d call out for my father, who would come and rub my shins to help soothe the pain, telling me, “It’s just growing pains.”

It’s just growing pains.

I think about the people I’ve sat with in their suffering, and the privilege it’s been to watch them grow. Most have entered therapy in excruciating pain; many have ended their therapy stronger, wiser, and more resilient. They’ve made the difficult choice to endure their suffering well, and they’ve grown.

A few clients have told me, “I don’t care about growing any more—I’m just so tired of hurting!” And I respond, “I know. I know.” I do know. In the process of suffering, we can often find no redeeming value in it, no motivation to let ourselves feel the pain, no trust that it will ever get better. But inevitably it does get better. I don’t think it’s time alone that heals all wounds, but time is a necessary component to healing. And so is allowing ourselves to feel pain and to ask all the questions of ‘why’ and ‘how’. It’s necessary.

Trite as it may sound, I’m 5’7” today and I know those growing pains of my childhood got me to this place! (The comfort of a caring and gentle father helped soothe the pain and made me feel less alone in my late night suffering.)

I don’t know what’s at the end of your season of suffering, but I know there is something worthwhile when you get to the other side. Trust it. Don’t give up. Whatever lessons are there are valuable ones that will serve you well the rest of the way.

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