The Gift of Pain

February 24, 2020


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To call pain a gift seems like an oxymoron, I know. But without pain, we would repeatedly reinjure ourselves in the same ways. Without pain we would simply maintain the status quo. Without pain we would ignore problems that can kill us.

In fact, pain saved my life on July 23, 2000. I woke up that Sunday morning with intense pain in my abdomen, but I ignored it. I tried to preach a sermon that Sunday, but it became the only sermon I didn’t finish. Five minutes into it I was doubled over in pain. I ended up in the emergency room at Washington Hospital Center, where an MRI revealed ruptured intestines. I was immediately wheeled into surgery, where I could have and perhaps should have died. And I certainly would have died if it weren’t for the intense pain I could not ignore.

I was on a respirator for two days, fighting for my life. I lost twenty-five pounds in seven days. Trust me, there are better ways to lose weight! And the net result is a foot-long scar that bisects my abdomen from top to bottom.

Sometimes the greatest joy follows the worst pain, as mothers of newborns can attest. Few people inflict more pain on themselves than athletes, but the pain is forgotten in the thrill of victory.

Would I want to experience another brush with death like that? Not on my life! But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I don’t take a single day for granted. And the presence of God during those difficult days was as real as anything I’ve ever felt. It’s a presence that is felt and a voice that is heard most clearly during pain.

Remember Joseph in the Old Testament? He had zero emotional intelligence as a teenager, which isn’t entirely uncommon. But thirteen years of suffering earned him a graduate degree in empathy. And it was one act of empathy—noticing a dejected look on the face of a fellow prisoner—that eventually led to saving two nations.

Pain can be a professor of theology.

Pain can be a marriage counselor.

Pain can be a life coach.

Nothing gets our full attention like pain. It breaks down false idols and purifies false motives. It reveals where we need to heal, where we need to grow. It refocuses priorities like nothing else. And pain is part and parcel of God’s sanctification process in our lives.

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.


  1. Thomas C Gotcher on February 24, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Thank You for this!!

  2. Marcelle Davis on March 2, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    Amen! I always said pain is a sign that something is wrong, but I never really looked at it this way. Thank God for the pains I endured to change. To heal

    • Sue Clabby on March 8, 2020 at 10:52 am

      Yes! Its amazing the prayers I have for others while I’m in pain, God hears mine too under the prayers, surprisingly. Always an amazement to me the peace He brings! Praise God, our healer!

  3. Connie on March 3, 2020 at 6:38 am

    I truly am your biggest fan want you to know that I love your writing I love your books I love how the Lord shows your stuff amazing

  4. Denise LeFrancois on March 23, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you your words of encouragement. I have been living with pain for over 2 years now. It was at times so intense I couldn’t take another step. I’ve had 2 surgeries to fix my foot…this last surgery to remove the hardware that set in place during my first surgery. My body was reacting to the metal, causing more pain and causing my skin to react in such a way I was placed on steroids. I never asked God “why me”…but I did get a little angry at times because God didn’t answer my prayers upon prayers for healing…God chose my healing through medical doctors. All glory and praise to God for my healing!! I have 2 more weeks with my foot wrapped and wearing a boot but when my stitches are removed I am looking forward to taking the first walk I will have taken in 2 years! God is good and good all the time!

  5. Deborah Reece on March 23, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    I believe that a lot of pain we bring upon ourselves due to bad decisions, but God can turn those bad decisions around for good.

    I don’t believe God deliberately inflicts pain on us to teach us – teaching should come through the Word. However, I do believe God allows us to go through difficult circumstances at time to get us to lean on Him and so He can show us that He’s our provider.

    I don’t believe in the religious teachings that God has to use pain if we are tuned into Him, or that God causes people to get cancer, or that He causes them to go through disasters, etc. to teach them. If we aren’t tuned into Him, then the pain that we bring on ourselves is definitely a tool that He can use to bring us back to Him.

    A lot of this religious teaching that God wants us to suffer is nonsense. He does say we will be persecuted for Jesus but He doesn’t say that he inflicts pain on us deliberately.

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