THE ABYSS. It’s where God wants to take us. Not for our harm, but for our good. Not for no reason, but for a purpose. And we only realise this when we stumble on it by accident having been forced to go there by the cruel circumstances of life.

One experience of going to the abyss will teach us more about the purpose of life than ten lifetimes without it.

Yet it is denial or flight or attack of myriad sorts – our fear of pain – that causes us to resist the sort of pain that has life as its core.

Yes, inside pain is the irrefutable core truth – don’t resist it or resent it and we come to the end of ourselves, and hence the beginning of God.

Only in the abyss do we learn how quickly we reach our creative limits. Only there do we ever begin to contemplate life lived as a possibility; that comfort and the absence of pain may not be the objects of life.

Sitting in that place of pain may not make us able to bear the pain any better, but it can teach us that life is not centrally about avoiding pain, but in the ability to hold it close without it making us bitter.

But inevitably we need to experience the sharpness of bitterness to experience the folly of it. It seems a viable response to pain, but it takes us away from contentment.

Five experiences of existential pain we must get used to are:

1. Frustrations that are common to life that cause us to become overwhelmed cognitively, emotionally, spiritually. Learning to accept what we cannot change will help us to accept those experiences of being overwhelmed, and that pain is mastered.

2. Grief outbound of loss. Life when it is analysed is a long series of grief events, but it’s only the major iterations of grief that promise to crush us sufficiently to cause us to surrender enough to learn by being humble enough to be taught.

3. Anxiety that is common of a normal human’s experience presents us with a pain that estranges us from the bond of connection. When we learn to stop judging our everyday anxiety we bear it and suddenly it is no longer a problem for us, and we can explore the thinking behind it in order to challenge it from a healthy, productive creative space.

4. Understanding that sadness and sorrow have their cherished place in the human experience. Nobody likes being depressed, but in our depression we master depths of understanding we never would otherwise. See how even depression can have a deeper life purpose?

5. Time moves forward and onward, always, all the time. We lament the passing of time and seasons of past. It’s normal. Rather than simply staying in a place of despair, we have the opportunity to revisit those places and bear our understandings as real in our experience. And those times we cannot bear to think we ever had are gone. In this regard, time is inherently redemptive.

Pain has its purpose in teaching us the deeper matters of the realities of life.

By Steve Wickham

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