Sigmund Freud once proposed that the mind seeks to avoid pain and find pleasure.

In this life, we will get our hearts get broken. People might say mean things to us. Something or someone beloved gets taken away, be it by age, by force or a rift in the relationship. A crushing blow hits us when and where we least expect it.

But in response, we could just bury our heads in the sand and pretend the throbbing pain isn’t there. Lose ourselves on Netflix, eat our feelings, binge drink, max out our credit cards on shopping sprees – the list of activities to numb our senses goes on.

Even the disciples, in their sorrow, slept it away (Luke 22:45-46). I guess Freud would have said the impending crucifixion of Jesus was too much for them to bear.

It only makes sense to escape something that feels so bad by minimising our experience of it.

Madalyn Murray O’ Hair once nobly said that an atheist strives to eliminate disease, war and poverty. To basically eradicate any form of pain or suffering from the face of this earth and prevent it from rearing its ugly head again by building hospitals and the like.

But you don’t have to be an atheist or a theist to have come across these more commonly known methods of pain suppression.

Living in the moment. Getting high. Altruism. Nihilism. Cutting. Double lives on social media, pretending to lead the Perfect Life with no problems. No pain.

Until the placebo ceases to work.


Once upon a time, there was a young film student who dated a kindergarten teaching assistant. Their relationship blossomed and they began to share their deepest, darkest secrets. He learnt that she hadn’t had an easy childhood and her last relationship was one marred by emotional abuse. She still bore those scars.

No matter, our young protagonist thought in his young naivety, that’s her past. I’ll show her the future.

As with all good things, they come to an end, and this relationship was no different.

Then came the long nights filled with sobbing, which he was no stranger to.

In between tears, he experimented with various ways of staunching the pain. Long periods of not eating, followed by massive meals. Late night heart-to-heart talks with close friends. Hours spent in front of the computer binge watching series after series, only to be followed by nonstop gaming. Monochrome posts on Instagram with emo captions.

This void was meant for Him alone to fill, because He wants the best for His children.

But when the crying and running from the grief ran its initial course, he started doing something revolutionary. Although the dark cloud of despair hung over his head day after day, he found himself seeking solace in God and the comforting words in his Bible.

Sounds too good to be true? Oh he doubted it too. But as he drew closer to God in his pain, he learnt more about what was upon God’s heart. How He desired to draw near to His children, how sad He felt as he watched His children try to fill up the void left by great pain with all sorts of nonsensical, whimsical things.

This void was meant for Him alone to fill, because He wants the best for His children.

As the saying goes, an arrow needs to be pulled back before it’s shot. Airplanes take off into the wind, not away from it. And love is only refined – beautifully – in the fiercest flames.


Just like how a father would take away a knife from a child who wants to play with it, I’ve realised through seasons of pain that God has shown me the importance of putting Him first in his life and that nothing can take His place.

Consider Job, who through his suffering and misery asked God plenty of questions but never quite received an answer to them.

Instead he was rendered speechless by God’s response.

Sometimes, the only meaning we can offer a suffering person is the assurance that even where there are no answers, they are never alone.

Philip Yancey wrote in Where Is God When It Hurts that sometimes we don’t want answers; we just need someone to be there to assure us that we’re not alone. Take heart, for there will come a day where everything will be revealed and made clear to us (Luke 8:17, Matthew 10:26).

I wish I knew all the answers to all the burning yet unanswered questions in our anguished hearts. But unfortunately I don’t.

I know how painful life can get. Oftentimes, we want it to just end, right here, right now. We just can’t go on. It’s too painful.

Cry. Scream. Yell if you must. I feel you. It’s tempting, I know. But whatever you do, do not lose sight of God in your pain.

Nothing, no one, no circumstance occurs without Him knowing about it (Psalm 115:3, Psalm 135:6). Cry out to Him, draw close to Him. Let Him comfort you in this difficult time, as a father would his child.

Just as gold is refined and purified in the furnace at 1064ºC, pain is there for a reason. After all, He only has our best interests at heart (Romans 8:28). Though that might hurt, God is still sovereign and in control (1 John 4:12).

Sometimes, the only meaning we can offer a suffering person is the assurance that even where there are no answers, they are never alone.

God is there. God is with us always.