Why You Should Stop Trying to Numb Your Pain

As a pastor, part of what I do is deal with wounds. I’m not talking about scraped knees, or broken bones (although I do deal with those as a father of three kids!), but the deep spiritual wounds we all have. It doesn’t matter who you are, you have pain. I do, too. Right now, you might not be aware of your pain, but that’s not because it isn’t there. It’s because you’ve been numbing yourself.

Numbing yourself is a way of dealing with pain. The hurt is still there, the wound may even be infected, you just don’t feel it. Israel’s false prophets helped the Hebrews numb themselves, and God rebuked them for it. God told the prophet, Jeremiah, that those prophets had “healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jer. 6:14) Instead of exposing the wound, and making it felt, they put a band-aid on what was broken.

You see, it’s much easier to put band-aids on ourselves (and it’s easier for pastors to do this for their parishioners) than it is for us to deal with our pain. You might not be feeling your wound because you’ve stacked so many band-aids on it.

We all have different ways of masking our pain. It could be excessive alcohol consumption, binging every night on Netflix, pornography, shopping, or eating. The list goes on and on, but quite simply, band-aids are those things which we use to escape our painful reality. They’re the stuff that helps us not to feel. They’re the things that say to us, “Peace, peace!” when deep down we’re a mess.

Stop and think for a second about what that might be in your life. What do you use to escape reality? How have you been medicating yourself to avoid having to feel your wounds?

We’re all guilty of this, but Jesus offers us a better way. You see, there’s something about his wounds that should bring us healing. The prophet Isaiah wrote of Jesus, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) This is not peace like the false prophets promised, artificial and temporary, but true healing.

Here again, we’re not talking about physical ailments per se, but the deep spiritual injuries caused by sin; the pain from broken homes and relationships, insecurities, anxieties, betrayal, hatred, and sexual failure. This list also goes on and on, and it’s difficult to talk about, which is why we try to avoid it at all costs.

But Jesus says we don’t have to avoid it. We don’t have to numb ourselves until we die after years of self-made-morphine. Instead of numbing our pain, we can be open and honest about our wounds so that the true healer can operate. We can see the wound for what it is, and not be terrified of feeling it. In fact, God would have us be aware of those wounds, and the pain can be a means of bringing us into his presence daily (yes, sometimes the hurt doesn’t go away).

Instead of trying to mask your pain, let it make you desperate for the one who knows what it feels like to be pierced, crushed, chastised, and abandoned. Find solidarity with his suffering, and healing in his stripes. Christianity doesn’t offer us an escape from pain, but the ability to truly feel it, because we don’t have to fear it. Our God, Jesus, is intimately aware of pain, having experienced it in his body, and he can deal with our wounds in a way that Netflix and six beers can’t.

Next time you’re tempted to numb out, turn to the One who felt pain for you. Allow yourself to feel your brokenness instead of pretending like it isn’t there. There may be tears, and that’s okay, God keeps track of them (Ps. 56:8). Ask God to do what only he can do, and grant you peace.

You may find yourself praying that prayer on a continual basis, but perhaps that’s one of God’s points in allowing suffering in the first place. It’s in our weakness that God’s grace often shines the brightest (2 Cor. 12:8-10), and should God be pleased to shine in your sorrow, let him. When he does, you’ll find the experience to be infinitely better than the band-aids you’ve been stacking.

Photo of Adriel Sanchez

Adriel Sanchez

Adriel Sanchez is pastor of North Park Presbyterian Church, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, he also serves the broader church as a host on the Core Christianity radio program, a live, daily call-in talk show where he answers listeners' questions about the Bible and the Christian faith. He and his wife Ysabel live in San Diego with their four children.

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