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It was a modern day profit who once said, “Mo money, mo problems (RIP B.I.G).” Oh how this 90’s kid misses the rap scene of my youth! I digress. In a similar way, pain can often cause mo and mo pain and problems. Pain can cause us to respond in some really destructive ways causing further damage to ourselves and those around us. So, what does a healthy response to pain look like?

The year was 2008, I was 30 years old and 4 years into a church plant with my wife in the Tower District of Fresno Ca. Those 4 years were some of the most rewarding and life-changing years of my life. They also became some of the most painful due to the overwhelming needs of our community, church and my growing family. I was working at the church full time, as well as selling real estate to make ends meat. The pressure was unbearable and I almost didn’t get out in time with my life. I was overwhelmed and on the verge of complete burnout and destruction. I had no other choice but to walk away.

Thankfully I was able to move on from that, but the pain I experienced from leaving ended up being worse than the pain I felt staying. I felt like a failure. I felt like I failed our church, my family, our financial supporters and worst of all, God. Feeling like a failure caused me respond in some destructive ways. For the next 18 months I worked myself into a deep and dark depression. I began to drink every day to ease the pain of my failure.

As a pastor for almost 25 years, I have for years chosen overeating and abusing alcohol (mostly wine, because that is a socially acceptable pastor vice in California) as a way to deal with the pain and disappointment I have felt. I probably would have preferred the high of pornography but I knew that choosing that would quickly screw up my marriage and greatly affect my ability to lead. Porn is a far less “acceptable” form of numbing for people in the church to be okay with. Most pastors with porn problems (and there a lot) don’t seem to keep their jobs. Either way, I have not always been the “model citizen” for dealing with pain in healthy ways. This comes mostly from what was modeled in my family growing up. Most problems could be solved, or forgotten, with a few drinks.

Dealing with pain that way caused some real pain on my family and especially myself. Sometimes we are our worse abusers. Thankfully, after 18 months of hurting myself, I made a decision to deal with the pain instead of numb and avoid it. I got into therapy weekly, started hanging out with friends and oddly enough God brought another pastoral position into my life. I had to stop giving this pain so much power and authority in my life. I had to take ownership of my life, which included owning my failures and weaknesses. Lastly, I had to make it right with everyone I had hurt along the way. All of this could have been avoided if I had chosen to deal with pain head on right as it was happening.

Moment of decision! Whether pain was inflicted on us, or we inflicted it upon ourselves, there is a moment of decision that happens as you begin to be flooded with fear and shame. If we miss this moment and choose to add more problems to our pain, we will inevitably find ourselves compounding the fear and shame. Now, what seemed like a “manageable” pain has turned into a real problem. Often things like addictions and even affairs are the result of unresolved and unprocessed pain. It feels good to numb the pain for a moment, but the consequences begin to snowball to the point that we now have new sets of problems, and the cycle continues.

What would it look like for us to stop and pause and sit with our pain for a moment instead of immediately trying to forget, avoid or numb it?

What would it look like for us to stop and pause and sit with our pain for a moment instead of immediately trying to forget, avoid or numb it? What if we made dealing with pain a natural response instead of something we avoid, or brush under the carpet? In what ways have you experienced pain leading to more problems? What has been helpful for you to stay in the game?

“God, help me to embrace the pain so I can better experience the passions you have given and prepared for me.”

Coach Matt

Coach Matt

Matt has over 20 years experience as a pastor, organizational leader and coach. Matt is a survivor of pain, trauma, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and codependency. He has learned to not only survive trauma and pain, but live a passionate and fulfilling life and loves helping others do the same.