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Pain Protects
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[Phillip Yancey] learned a high appreciation for pain's warning function while collaborating on three books with Dr. Paul Brand, the missionary surgeon who discovered that all the disfigurement that makes leprosy such a dreaded disease traces back to the loss of pain sensation.

Theologians blithely attribute pain to the Fall, ignoring the marvelous design features of the pain system.

Every square millimeter of the body has a different sensitivity to pain, so that a speck of dirt may cause excruciating pain in the vulnerable eye whereas it would go unreported on the tough extremities. Internal organs such as the bowels and kidneys have no receptors that warn against cutting or burning-dangers they normally do not face—but show exquisite sensitivity to distension.

When organs such as the heart detect danger but lack receptors, they borrow others' pain cells ("referred pain"), which is why heart attack victims often report pain in the shoulder or arm. The pain system automatically ramps up hypersensitivity to protect an injured part (explaining why a sore thumb always seems in the way) and turns down the volume in the face of emergencies (soldiers often report no pain from a wound in the course of battle, only afterwards).

Draw Attention

Pain serves us subliminally as well: sensors make us blink several times a minute to lubricate our eyes and shift our legs and buttocks to prevent pressure sores. Pain is the most effective language the body can use to draw attention to something important.*

There are spiritual applications here if we allow them. On the broken planet on which we live, pain has become a way of life. There is no denying the reality of it. Pain can allow us to see our need for something greater than what this world has to offer. God has a plan for our eternal future, and when we allow ourselves to commit to His plans for us, we can begin to understand.

In the near future Jesus promises that, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

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By Michael Temple. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

* Philip Yancey, The Hurts...page 32


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