Staying Sane in the Pain

When my wife was giving birth to our first child, she was in excruciating pain. Sure, we had gone to Lamaze birthing classes and learned how to breath and all those kinds of things. But when we got to the labor room, I felt more like a shlamazel rather than a master of Lamaze. I didn’t know what was going on and was a nervous wreck. Here is my wife, going through these excruciating, intense contractions, which are coming closer and closer together, and I am in a total panic.

All of sudden, between two contractions my wife looks at me with this incredibly calm face and says, “Hey, calm down.” She then goes into another unbearable contraction, comes out of it and enters another incredibly peaceful state. “I might be in excruciating pain,” she calmly says— “but I’m not suffering. Suffering has no purpose, while this pain has purpose; I am giving birth to new life.”

When a person is going through any kind of pain and they don’t find purpose in it, the pain turns into horrible suffering. But if you find purpose in the pain, you will prevent it from becoming suffering and even turn it into power.

Purpose, however, does not mean reason. There is a big difference between reason and purpose for pain. People going through pain often ask, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?”

If G-d wants you to know why it is happening to you, He will tell you. But since G-d doesn’t seem to tell most of us, it must be that the reason is immaterial. 

People try very hard to figure out why painful things happen to them. While we cannot really know the reason, we can give it purpose. The past, we don’t know. The secrets of G-d, we don’t know. But the purpose, we can decide. If we do nothing with our pain, it turns into suffering. We must give it purpose; use it as an opportunity to give birth to new aspects of ourselves and grow closer to each other and to G-d.