The Other Side Of Pain

Pastor Sean Palmer shared the incredible witness of Dr. Paul Brand, who spent his life treating people afflicted with leprosy, and the story of Jesus’ early gospel encounter with a leper. Sean asked us to consider our relationship to pain; what it’s trying to reveal to us, and the ways it reminds us that we can still feel. In places of pain, we are those called to draw near with presence and touch for all those hurting.


Mark 1: 40-44

He insisted on pain’s great value, holding up as proof the terrible results of leprosy—damaged faces, blindness, and loss of fingers, toes, and limbs—all of which occur as side-effects of painlessness. As a young doctor in India, Brand had made the groundbreaking medical discovery that leprosy does its damage merely by destroying nerve endings…

People who lose pain sensation then damage themselves by such simple actions as gripping a splintered rake or wearing tight shoes. Pressure sores form, infection sets in, and no pain signals alert them to tend to the wounded area…

Most people view pain as an enemy. Yet, as my leprosy patients prove, it forces us to pay attention to threats against our bodies. Without it, heart attacks, strokes, ruptured appendixes, and stomach ulcers would all occur without any warning.

— Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor

Sadan showed me his feet, which ended in smooth, rounded stumps instead of toes. “I met the Brands too late to save these,” he said. “But they gave me shoes that let me walk.”…

In a high-pitched, singsong voice Sadan told me wrenching stories of past rejection: the classmates who made fun of him in school, the driver who forcibly threw him off a public bus, the many employers who refused to hire him despite his training and talent, the hospitals that turned him away with a brusque “We don’t treat lepers here.”…

“When I got to Vellore, I spent the night on the Brands’ veranda, because I had nowhere else to go,” said Sadan. “That was unheard of for a person with leprosy back then. I can still remember when Dr. Brand took my infected, bleeding feet in his hands. I had been to many doctors. A few had examined my hands and feet from a distance, but Drs. Paul and Margaret were the first medical workers who dared to touch me. I had nearly forgotten what human touch felt like.”

— Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor

Love, however, is not mathematical; we can never precisely calculate the greatest possible good to be applied equally to the world’s poor and needy. We can only seek out one person, and then another, and then another, as objects for God’s love.

— Dr. Paul Brand

Reflection and Practice

Sean suggested that Jesus can heal both by taking away pain, or at times, giving the pain. Where does that resonate in your own story and experience?

When life is painful, the response is presence. To whom in your life and circles might you draw near?

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