I don’t want to experience pain any more than anyone else. I have learned, however, to look for what this pain is trying to tell me. And in that way, I believe pain can be good for something.


Pain: What Is It Good For? Absolutely…something?

Lora Scott

13 mins

What if life wasn’t about avoiding pain at all costs?

I get it. On the surface, that sounds, at best, counterintuitive…and, at worst, like I might be some sadistic MMA momma. I’m neither.

I’m actually a sports medicine physician—and a follower of Jesus. In both those areas of my life (and a million others), pain is a reality. But like the great philosopher Rafiki in The Lion King said, when it comes to pain, “you can either run from it or learn from it.”

Pain is one of God’s most powerful teachers. If you’re feeling a twinge in your personal life, there might be something here for you. (And just to state the obvious, nothing in this article should constitute as medical advice. If you need that, get off the internet and talk to your doctor, for the love.)


During my training years, I read a book called “The Gift of Pain” by Dr. Paul Brand. He spent his career working with leprosy patients and noted that many of their injuries were due to their inability to feel physical pain. He concluded that pain serves as a cue that ‘something needs to change.’


Without this cue, we won’t change and could do further damage. Whether it is a rock in our shoe or a distressing relationship, it’s helpful to know what needs to change to avoid making things worse. In my sports medicine work, I’ve learned that different patterns of physical pain can actually mirror emotional pain—and that God can use both for our good, teaching us more about him in the process.

I do not personally believe that God’s desire is for us to be in pain (John 10:10 says that God comes to bring life and bring it to the full, while the enemy comes to kill and destroy). However, God knows we need an alert system to notify us when things are not going well. That’s where pain comes in.

If you long to see the purpose, next steps, and even joy in your pain—and if you wonder if God’s still with you—keep reading.

TYPES OF PAIN (Physically and Emotionally)


Acute injuries come out of nowhere. For athletes, we’re talking ankle sprains, ACL tears, broken bones, or concussions. Things were fine, then BAM, there was a problem that stopped them in their tracks. In these cases, I walk the athlete through what the injury is, how to treat it, what is and isn’t safe to do during recovery, and what it will take to get back to activities.

It is the same for acute injuries in our emotional world. A job loss, a car accident, an unexpected medical diagnosis, the death of a loved one, or a bad breakup might all count. Suddenly and without notice, your world and rhythms are changed.


For acute sports injuries, athletes might require outside support from crutches, braces, or casts. It’s just as normal for people to need similar support to get back on their feet after an acute emotional injury. These support systems might come from friends, family, or neighbors. It could look like signing up for a healing or grief group or seeking professional therapy.

Personally, talking to God helps me ride the emotional tsunami, while my human support system provides tangible resources and assistance. In scripture, this pattern works for a guy named Job in a story you might consider Cinderella-in-reverse. Job was on top of the world, the most powerful, wealthy, and respected man in the land, until one terrifyingly cataclysmic day. In the span of a few hours, he lost his money, his business prospects, and his children. What did he do with his acute emotional pain? He cried out to God and then to friends.

Many Bible scholars believe Job might be the oldest book in the entire Bible, suggesting that where we take our pain is central to life as humans. We can internalize it, get bitter, lash out, and blame God or others. Or, we can turn to Him and ask for help.


The overuse injury starts with annoying pain that doesn’t seem to impact an athlete’s training or performance—so they push on. The longer they overuse the muscle or bone, the worse the pain gets, eventually disrupting everything. The most common example of this is a shin splint in a runner, which can turn into a weak bone and then a stress fracture. If they keep going, the condition will only worsen until the bone breaks completely. Instead of pushing through overuse injuries, athletes need professional help to guide them through the risks vs. benefits of finishing their season or sitting this one out to recover.

Emotional pain like this usually comes from using our resources (time, money, relationships, etc.) in an unhealthy way. It could be a stress in a relationship from working long hours or strain on the budget from overspending. While it can be tolerated short term and for a purpose, everything will eventually crash and fall apart if it isn’t corrected.


We can’t work long hours forever and expect relationships to thrive, and we can’t overspend forever and expect our credit scores to be stellar. A trusted mentor and Biblical wisdom can help us figure out when the short-term pain is worth the long-term benefit or when we are simply being self-destructive.

The Bible’s book of wisdom says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to instruction” (Prov. 12:15). It’s a good reminder to check our motivations and actions against the wisdom of others. We do not have to face these difficult decisions alone. We can tap into the advice of those who understand and can offer outside perspectives in the context of our goals. This is especially helpful when we’ve gotten so used to the feeling of overuse that we no longer recognize it as unsustainable.


Some aches and pains come from training errors. The best example of this is the teenage boy who fixates on the bench press and doesn’t do anything to work the back of his shoulders. His lopsided training will throw off his shoulder mechanics, eventually resulting in pain. It’s not that excelling in the bench press is bad; it’s just that he went hard after a goal without planning the most balanced way to reach it. There is likely little to no damage if he keeps going in his old ways, but the pain will only continue if he does not make some changes. The athlete needs to decide how much pain he wants to tolerate before he does the work to fix it.

In our emotional lives, training errors occur when our habits get off-kilter. In my family, it looks like the kids are doing too many activities, and our family is losing the time to have dinner together. Or when we get snippy with each other because we’ve forgotten to implement days of rest and fun together. Maybe it’s that we stay within our budget every month but aren’t working towards any financial goals. Nothing we are doing is going to spiral and worsen, but the balance doesn’t work for how we want our lives to look. In my life, this means my husband and I need to sit down and look at our calendar or budget, set some goals, and then decide what needs to change in order to get back to making progress.


In Luke 14:28, Jesus explains that no one begins a building project without first planning the full cost of the work. Doing this can help us avoid emotional training errors. Asking questions like “Do we have the resources to finish what we’re going after?” or “What are our goals?” or “What are we doing that feels aimless?” can be great places to start. While the training error pain may not be damaging, it can also be unnecessary and without purpose. Put in the time beforehand—and be willing to adjust when necessary—and you can avoid making repeat errors in the future.


I work with teen athletes. They grow—a lot. Sometimes, an athlete’s pain is caused by using the body differently as their proportions grow and change on an almost daily basis. The solution to their pain often involves taking the athlete’s training schedule down a notch to help the flexibility and coordination keep up with the growth. Other times, the pain is simply soreness from asking the body to do something new. It isn’t harmful, but it isn’t pleasant either!

I like to think that sometimes my emotional pain is from growth as well. Here’s how it usually goes: I start seeing flaws in myself that I never noticed before, and it hurts. Or I ask myself to do things I have never done before, and I don’t like it. In these spaces, I must go easy on myself and slow down, then focus on growing and stretching myself. I have to be okay with the discomfort. Once the growth is done, I will be a better person (at least, I hope so).

Hebrews 12:11 clearly tells us that this discipline is painful but produces growth. If we want to progress emotionally, that path almost always leads to some temporary discomfort. Keep going, anyway.


Then again—and this does happen from time to time—it might be none of these things. The athlete is training correctly, taking rest days, not over-doing it, no injury, no growth spurt. They just have pain that we can’t explain. This is my cue to look for a deeper issue. I am going to look for the big bad things—a bone tumor, leukemia, infection, inflammatory disease, etc. I am unqualified to treat most of these problems, but I can look for them and transfer the patient to someone better equipped to handle them.

I feel this type of emotional pain when I look at the news. My heart aches for victims of war, natural disasters, and the evil and hurt that happens all around us. This pain may be the worst of all because I can’t do anything about it except notice it. There is a bigger problem in the world, and no one has effective solutions to cure it. That problem is sin, and it’s been plaguing us from day one.


Why do I feel this deeper-level pain? Because I am made in God’s image, and he also weeps for how far (and often) we fall. He looks at our world like I look at my child’s room when they’ve messed it up beyond their ability to clean. Instead of doubting God’s existence when I feel this pain, it is an exact reminder that God IS real and he DOES care. I can’t fix it, and I have to lean into His promises that he is the ultimate healer with all the qualifications to fix it in the best way possible.

In Revelation 21:3-5, scripture promises that God will heal all of this! It says, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!

If God acknowledges our suffering and promises to end it, why must we feel it all? Because pain is an indicator that it’s time to take action—it’s a call for us to jump in and make things better while we wait for the ultimate healing to come.

Is Pain Really Good for Something?

Is pain really a good thing? Is it really a gift? Dr. Brand labeled it “the gift nobody wants” but the one everybody needs. Our lives and our world would be worse if we didn’t notice the pain and take action to minimize the damage. Pain makes us more self-aware and caring. Pain reminds us that the world does not function as intended, but God’s goodness will overcome.


I don’t want to experience pain any more than anyone else. However, I have learned to stop shooting the messenger and look for what this pain is trying to tell me. I am thankful that it helps open my eyes up to what is going on around me, reminds me of God’s goodness, and compels me to have faith in God’s promises. I hope it can do the same for you.

And if, because of the title, you waited this entire article for an Edwin Starr joke, you just found it. Turns out, pain is good for absolutely something.

Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

Reflections to share? Got an idea for an article? Email us at articles@crossroads.net

At Crossroads, we major on the majors and minor on the minors. We welcome a diverse community of people who all agree that Jesus is Lord and Savior, even if they view minor theological and faith topics in different ways based on their unique experiences. Our various authors embody that principle, and we approach you, our reader, in the same fashion. You don’t have to agree with every detail of any article you see here to be part of this community or pursue faith. Chances are even our whole staff doesn’t even agree with every detail of what you just read. We are okay with that tension. And we think God is okay with that, too. The foundation of everything we do is a conviction that the Bible is true and that accepting Jesus is who he said he is leads to a healthy life of purpose and adventure—and eternal life with God.

Lora Scott
Meet the author

Lora Scott

Doctor, wife, and mom to two kids and two gigantic dogs. Chiefs fan since the early 90s, even when they stunk. Prefers summer over winter, beach over mountains, and camping over hotels. Always scores as the "evil mastermind" on personality tests.

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