A Holy Journey with Pain

A Holy Journey with Pain

“Somewhere along my journey, I became aware that angels of God were accompanying me. I saw the angels and knew that I belonged to God.

Well into my travels, messengers came to tell me, ‘Pain is coming to meet you and he brings death to some, great pain and suffering to you, your family and friends.’

At first, I felt as if God was telling me, ‘Do not be afraid, this will be a holy experience for you, and a gift and a blessing to many others.’ Almost immediately, that began to happen. As I was invited to tell my story, and it proved to be a source of hope for me, and inspiration and hope for others.

But then my health began to deteriorate, and I became afraid and distressed. And I prayed, ‘O God of my ancestors, I want to remind you that you said this would be a holy experience and a gift and a blessing. It no longer feels that way. Deliver me please from the hand of Pain, for I am afraid of what he will do to us.’

And as I continued on the journey, I found myself unwittingly out ahead of my family and friends—leading and loving them. I bowed in front of all kinds of Pain challenges and honored them. Pain in turn honored me, weeping for me because of the pain he was subjecting me to.

I said to Pain, ‘You may well take all that I have—everything that I own. But, God has given me everything I need, and you cannot take that: community, family, friends, intimacy with God and friends, vulnerability, authenticity, powerlessness, brokenness, knowing I am God’s beloved in whom He is well-pleased, finding my own voice, finding my own identity, interior freedom, meaning and purpose, and a rich interior and spiritual life.’

Then Pain said. ‘Let us journey on our way together.’ And I replied, ‘My family, friends and I are weary from our struggles with you. You go on ahead and we will travel at the pace at which we are capable.’

Further along the journey, I encountered the Dark Night, and I found myself all alone. And Pain came and wrestled with me until someone died. And there was great wailing, moaning, and grieving, followed by a great silence…

And still I continued to wrestle with Pain. When Pain saw that he could not prevail against me, he struck me on the hip socket and my hip was put out of joint.

Then Pain said to me, ‘Let me go, for I have taken your beloved and it is time for me to move on.’ But I said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ Pain replied ‘You shall no longer be called by your name, but rather be called ‘wounded healer.’ The wound you have endured at my hand has made you whole.’ And then Pain blessed me.

So, I called this encounter ‘holy,’ as I said, ‘For I have seen God face-to-face in this disease and yet my life has been preserved.’

A new day came after the death of my beloved and the sun rose on me as I moved forward with my life—now limping because of my hip—moving forward as a wounded healer, bringing a message to a world in need of all that I had learned.”


Jacob Wrestles with God. Genesis 32:22-32

Who are you God?: Suffering and Intimacy with God, by Janet O. Hagberg. Adapted from Tom’s story pages 185-186.










Making Sense of Suffering

Making Sense of Suffering

Excerpts from Where are You God? Suffering and Intimacy with God by Janet O. Hagberg

  • Then disappointment said to me, “Let us journey on our way together.” Leading with a limp. To know disappointment, so that I might be a blessing to others. This brings the most glory to God.
  • I embrace my disappointment as my teacher on my journey toward God. God transforms disappointment into His Face. And Disappointment comes and wrestles with me until I allow the death of this dream.
  • I will not let you go unless you bless me. I shall now be called “wounded healer.” The wound I have endured at Disappointment’s hand has made me whole. And Disappointment blessed me.
  • Wounded Healer. Bringing a message to a world in need of all that I have learned.
  • Embrace the pain, without becoming a martyr. Making meaning of the pain.


  • Joy emerges from pain well attended.
  • We naturally care more about others when we have been to the bottom of our own wells. We are drawn to alleviate suffering for others.
  • Intimacy with God is more possible as a result of pain and suffering than from almost any other life experience.
  • I can live with pain and at the same time experience joy, good will and intimacy with God.
  • Intimacy with God transforms suffering. Reclaims suffering. Redefines suffering.


  • Bringing forth a new part of myself that becomes a gift to others. Vulnerability, transparency, expectancy, watchfulness.
  • Entering this deep place inside is where Christ is. Learn who I am. Learn who God is.
  • Even when I thought God was gone, I could hear movements around me in the dark.
  • In my pain, in my core, the depth of myself is the light that illuminates the darkness. In the stillness. The waiting. The inner dance.
  • I did not intentionally choose suffering, it chose me. To grow me toward my True Self. For my own sake and for the sake of others.
  • In my suffering there is a dying and a rising that becomes a new source of hope.


  • Our human experience of suffering takes us into the depths of our humanness and to the outer edge of our faith, bringing us face to face with God.
  • Our understanding of God is revealed, challenged or confirmed most dramatically in times of pain.
  • God suffers along with us. Showing us only the next step, for that is all we need to know.
  • The deepest lessons the heart has to deliver to us become accessible only when it is ruptured.
  • Intimacy does not eliminate the awesomeness of God but incorporates it.


  • If God appears to not be doing what I want, then things are likely not my true heart’s desire. God’s will is always identical to the deepest desires of my heart.
  • Eventually I yield myself to God and it becomes bearable.
  • “Lord, I had heard of you only by hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Job 42:5.
  • So much of suffering is unwillingness to let go.
  • The deeper the pain, the more potential to feel God’s presence.
  • The losses we suffer are a necessary part of the developmental process.

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