The Spiritual Meaning of Pain


I've had an eventful couple of weeks, so haven't been able to post. And I'm able to have another eventful couple of weeks, so this will be my one and only post in the month of May, I think. I love the month of May in Utah! The sky is so blue, the trees have that bright, light green! It's not too hot, but the cold is gone except for a cool breeze. And May is the month of the forsythia, and the lilacs, and the daffodils and hyacinths. In late May, all my giant bearded irises bloom. I can't wait to see my old friends in all their gorgeous colors!

Today is the sabbath, and my thoughts were drawn to the question of pain. Not just mental or emotional pain, but real physical, bodily pain. I'm co-writing a book with two CoJC female political philosophers, and our topic is embodied philosophy--that is, the development of a philosophy that starts with the body, and refuses to dissociate the body and the mind.

So today I kept coming back to the idea that heavenly anesthetic was completely available to the Savior in Gethsemane and on the cross--but was not used. Indeed, in Gethsemane, a heavenly being was sent to comfort the Savior, but not to take away the bodily pain he was feeling. No IV drip with morphine in Gethsemane.

Why not? As heretical as it might seem, I feel strongly that there is a spiritual meaning to bodily pain.

Now, before I even discuss that, let me just clarify that the intentional infliction or self-infliction by human beings of bodily pain for no healing medical purpose is just plain wrong. When I see religious zealots flagellate themselves with whips or undertake other bloody practices, I do not see any spiritual meaning therein at all. In fact, it's deeply spiritually "off," to my mind.

But there are two other dimensions of bodily pain, I think. One is that searing bodily pain is like a furnace of fire burning off the spiritual dross. I spent the month of January sick as a dog with covid. Part of that physical pain felt like the burning-off of non-essentials and distractions in my life, and I could see and hear more clearly the voice of the Lord than before I was ill. In fact, I received a two-part revelation during that time period about things I needed to do, and quickly. I am not sure I would have heard that revelation so clearly if I had not been purified in the fire of bodily pain. I also think I was more willing to immediately change and do something different, as if the bodily pain had made it possible to shake off old, comfortable habits. I wonder if repentance--that is, true change--is made more possible by experiencing great bodily pain. (I guess torturers must think so, right?)

But there's another dimension, too, that I sense. I sense that being willing to undertake bodily pain when called by God to do so in order to help another person brings great, great spiritual power. The pain suffered gives you the right to claim the help of Heaven for that other person. It gives you a direct line to the throne of God. It gives you the right to be heard of God. It opens the floodgates of your heart, and godly power rushes in.

That is why there was no morphine drip in the Garden of Gethsemane. There could not be, if the Atonement was to be effected. There was no other way.

As I touched on in my last post here, I learned this for myself through six childbirths. Midwives have a saying, "The greater the pain, the greater the love for the child." What is meant by this is exactly the same meaning as with the Atonement--it is the pain that opens the heart and allows the love of God and the power that accompanies that love to enter. Now, again, I'm not saying that women should not seek pain relief in childbirth. Every woman should do as she sees best.

But that's not what I am talking about. What I am saying is that pain is childbirth is NOT gratuitous. It has a great spiritual purpose. With my first birth, I was in back labor for 38 hours. I thought I was going to die from the pain. It felt like an endless hallucination of pain. But on the other side of that pain, when I held my firstborn child in my arms, I was transformed. I was not the person I had been before. The bodily pain was transformative, and I was a new creature.

In addition, I was a new creature with an immense capacity to love this child, and a hotline straight to Heaven. When I prayed for my child, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my prayers were heard and were considered important by God. I had earned that right, and it was given to me in abundance. My spiritual confidence was through the roof. I felt that the veil was very thin because of what I had experienced.

So, yeah, do as you will regarding pain relief in birth. But never, ever think that pain in childbirth is somehow gratuitous or something to be gotten rid of, or something to avoid like the plague. On the contrary, to the degree you are willing to experience that pain, great transformative power will wash over you. You will never be the same again. You will become a being of great power.

This is your right as a woman. This is the heart of the priestesshood. This is the great key and the great mystery of godly power in the priestesshood.

There is so much to learn from/with/through our physical bodies. We have, generally speaking, lost that understanding in our society. I hope that the women of the CoJC will buck that trend, and feel to investigate and to reclaim the spiritual meaning of the bodily pain we experience as women.