The Blessings of Pain

Written by Drew on May 17th, 2007

Ashlyn Blocker’s kindergarten teachers put ice in her chili so it won’t be scalding hot. On the playground, someone stays within 15 feet of her at all times. They keep her off the jungle gym—too dangerous. After recess Ashlyn gets daily check-ups with the school nurse. Why, you ask, does a little girl deserve all this special attention? Ashlyn has a congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, or CIPA, a rare genetic disorder that makes her unable to feel pain.

Ashlyn’s parents, John and Tara Blocker, discovered her problem when she was eight months old. They took her to the doctor for a bloodshot, swollen left eye. The doctor put drops in her eye to stain any particles that might be irritating it. Everyone was amazed to see the infant smiling and bouncing in her mother’s lap as the dye revealed a massive scratch across her cornea.

Baby teeth posed big problems. Ashlyn would chew her lips bloody in her sleep, bite through her tongue while eating, and once even stuck a finger in her mouth and stripped flesh from it.

People with chronic aches and pains might envy little Ashlyn’s condition, but they shouldn’t. “Pain’s there for a reason,” said Ashlyn’s mother. “It lets your body know something’s wrong and it needs to be fixed. I’d give anything for her to feel pain” (Russ Bynum, “Rare disease leaves Georgia girl feeling no pain at all,” Associated Press, 2004).

Pain comes in many varieties. Sometimes it is sharp; sometimes it’s dull. We describe our pain with adjectives ranging from “dull” and “aching” to “torture” and “excruciating.” Pain can be “biting,” “burning,” “raw,” “sore,” “inflamed,” “tender,” “unpleasant,” “throbbing,” or “irritated.” Sometimes it is all the above. Some people suffer from pain for a day; some deal with it for a lifetime. But however it is described, pain was given to us for our good. It is the body’s alarm system when there is trouble.

The conscience produces spiritual pain when sin creates a problem in the soul. We often refer to it as guilt. On the day of Pentecost Peter’s audience experienced a “cutting” in their heart (Acts 2:37). It may have been uncomfortable, but it eventually led to their salvation (Acts 2:38-41).

Paul said that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (7:10). If a sinner responds in a positive way to his inward pain, he will repent and obey the gospel. This, in turn, will bring him to God’s salvation. But sinners who try to ignore their guilt eventually die.

When you experience pain of a spiritual nature, follow the procedure prescribed in 1 John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Like medicine on a wound, John’s advice will heal an injured soul.


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