Heel Blisters and What I’ve Learned About Pain

Photo by TranceMist

A few days ago I returned from my second major hiking trip in the Bruce Peninsula — we covered 22 km of clifftop and woodland trails along Lake Huron this time. Breathtaking. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places in my life, but this region — especially the parts you can only get to if you’re willing to hike over difficult terrain for 7+ hours and sleep in the backcountry — is one of the most incredible.

This was a challenging hike, don’t get me wrong, but it still didn’t equal my first real hike in the Bruce. That day, my hiking buddy and I walked a total of approx. 38 km (23.5 miles). Yes, in one day. The trail was challenging nearly the whole way (you’re clambering over a ton of exposed rock, and up and down short, steep inclines that will really mess with your knees), and I was carrying an overweight backpack.

Also, I had done a little bit of conditioning before the hike, but probably not enough.

Now, I’m not advising that you follow suit, but that hike was amazing. I learned a ton about what I can actually DO — what endurance can accomplish.

We have a sort of life slogan that came out of that trip: It’s amazing what can happen if you just keep going.

But a significant part of that lesson was learning to let pain just be there. Not deal with it, not stop it, just let it be.

See, when you’ve been walking for miles and every part of your body hurts, but you’ve still got a lot MORE miles to go and the sun is not going to stay up forever, you can’t actually just stop and nurse your heel blisters, or cry over your sore shoulders, or take a break to pity your knees.

(I’m not saying you shouldn’t stop and avail yourself of tape, Band-aids, Neosporin, and knee braces — DO take care of yourself. Okay, disclaimer over.)

The thing is that pain wants you to think it’s the most important thing in the world and you must deal with it THIS MINUTE. If you can’t make it stop, it wants you to not do anything else either. Just focus on how badly it hurts.

Are you seeing the application to life yet?

Life hurts. Often, and badly.

When the pain is bad enough, it wants you to stop everything and deal with it. Medicate it. Dwell on it. Make it stop, or else make it the center of your universe.

And I get that there are times you really do have to sit down and feel what you’re feeling. I’m a believer in embracing pain, not denying it.

But that DOESN’T mean you have to give it first place, and it doesn’t mean you have to let it take over, and it doesn’t mean it cancels out every other priority.

Many years ago, the missionary Amy Carmichael wrote about her grief in losing a friend, “In acceptance lieth peace.”

I learned on that hiking trip that sometimes you can just let the pain be. You can live with it — accept it for what it is and keep going. You know it’s part of the deal — you ARE hiking 38 km over rough ground with an overweight backpack, by your own choice — and it isn’t the End of Everything.

Actually, if you keep going, you’ll reach the end of the trail, find time to deal with the pain properly and recover from it, and come out stronger.

The results of plunking down in the middle of the trail and refusing to go on any further because it hurts too much? Not great.

The Bible teaches that suffering doesn’t have to be feared and avoided at all costs. It teaches that we can actually choose to embrace and enter into it in such a way that we “suffer with Christ” and “fill up his sufferings,” and in doing so are given a way of participation in his resurrection and glory as well (Romans 8:17, Colossians 1:24, 1 Peter 4:13, 2 Timothy 2:12, Philippians 3:10-11). It also teaches that God is working everything — including pain — together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

None of that means suffering won’t come.

It means suffering doesn’t have to stop you.

No matter how loudly it yells at you, pain does not have to become the first thing in your life. It doesn’t have to sit on the throne.

That place belongs to God, who is working all things for your good.

Rather than asking, “How can I get rid of this?” you can ask “How can I walk through this?”

There’s always an other side to reach — the end of the trail to get to. No suffering lasts forever.

Take heart. The Lord who walks with you knows pain, agony, and deep soul suffering. He sweat blood in the garden. He didn’t skip out on the pain — he went through it.

And he was raised from the dead.

This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy:

“For if we have died with Him,
We will also live with Him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with Him.”

(2 Timothy 2:10-12, HCSB)






4 responses to “Heel Blisters and What I’ve Learned About Pain”

  1. Deb Avatar

    i understand what you’re saying. I gave birth 5 times without being a drama queen. I stayed in a difficult marriage for 28 years. Ok, I was a drama queen sometimes during my marriage, but I always came back to the fact that my goal was to protect and foster the welfare of my family, create a positive atmosphere and model problem solving skills to my husband and children. I wanted to live before my children these principles: we must take care of ourselves, but on the other hand, “its not all about me.” We can transcend our own “stuff” for a greater good. Your story of the hike gets it said real well.

  2. Brianna Avatar

    That was extremely encouraging Rachel! I l needed to be reminded again that pain is not the victor.

  3. Rachel Avatar

    Thanks for sharing that, Elisabeth! I’m really glad it was encouraging.

  4. Elisabeth Avatar

    I really needed to hear that right now. Funny how a *new* kind of pain can temporarily block out all the things I’ve already learned about suffering. Thank you!

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