Moving from pain to purpose isn’t always easy. But it’s always worth it.

In high school, I had pain in my feet when I walked, but my mind was more focused on walking with those who needed to feel like they belonged

As a corporate employee, I had pain in my hands from repetitive motion injuries, but my heart was more focused on giving a hand to my co-workers who needed encouragement.

As a wife and mom, I had the pain of fatigue from insomnia and stress from juggling it all, but my spirit was more focused on doing what I had energy to do to support my family while caring for myself.

In church gatherings, I had the pain of extreme shyness, but my soul was more focused on reaching out to those who didn’t have anyone to talk to.

As a coach, blogger, and speaker, I’m always working through the pain of migraines, insomnia, negative self-talk, and undiagnosed chronic pain, but I’m more focused on my purpose to be a spiritual companion, encourager, and voice of truth to help others to know their value and step into God’s purpose for them.

Pain steals. But God gives. “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

Pain brings despair. But truth brings peace.. “…whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV)

I may not always know why I’m experiencing pain. I may not always be able to lessen or stop the pain. But what I do always know is that God is with me through the pain and He will always help me to carry out the purposes He has for my life, whether or not they’re directly related to my pain.

I’m not minimizing pain inside or out, or dismissing the undesirable toll it takes physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially. But I’ve experienced the power of building the habit of reframing my overall perspective from pain to purpose–day by day, moment by moment. And this has only been possible by moving my greater focus from myself and my circumstances to God, His purposes, and helping others through their pain.

Types of Pain and How They Can Affect Your Life

There are many types of pain we experience from things in our own bodies, to things from various aspects of our lives, and even from things happening in the world around us near and far.

Below you’ll find 5 categories of pain you may experience in your life, along with some possible sources of that pain in each area, followed by some potential negative effects in your life if you become consumed by pain in that area.

Physical & Emotional Pain

Possible Sources:

  • Disease, illness or chronic pain
  • Physical or emotional trauma
  • Negative thought patterns

Potential Effects:

  • Overwhelming feelings of anger or sadness
  • Feelings of low self-worth
  • Giving up on goals or dreams

Relational Pain

Possible Sources:
  • Ongoing conflict with a family member or friend
  • Divorce, estrangement from a loved one, or loss of a loved one
  • Loneliness, isolation, rejection, feeling invisible
Potential Effects:
  • Unforgiveness, bitterness, and a hard heart
  • Getting stuck in hopelessness
  • Getting stuck in helplessness

Vocational & Financial Pain

Possible Sources:
  • Feeling unfulfilled in what you do in your role at a job or at home
  • Lack job stability or stressful work environments
  • Excessive debt or inadequate finances for present or future needs
Potential Effects:
  • Feeling a loss of identity, personal value, and contribution
  • Loss of direction
  • Low self-worth

Spiritual Pain

Possible Sources:

  • Disappointment in a prayer not answered in your desired time or way
  • Feeling judged or betrayed by a fellow believer you trusted
  • Experiencing conflict, a split, or misused power within your church
Potential Effects:
  • Lose trust in fellow believers or your church family
  • Feel like God doesn’t accept and love you as you are
  • Decrease or completely withdraw from church attendance

Societal Pain:

Possible Sources:
  • Inequality, crime, injustice
  • Fear and loss in natural disasters or pandemics
  • Suffering and loss in war
Potential Effects:
  • Judging others and not fully reflecting the love of God
  • Living in constant fear and losing peace
  • No longer trusting the goodness of God

Moving from pain to purpose as your greater focus will help you to avoid being taken captive to the negative effects that suffering can cause. But you might be wondering how God can possibly expect you to do this in the situation you’re in.

Does God understand your pain?

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV

The Bible shows us that our pain is not only understood, but has been experienced by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit where the divine meets the human experience.

Relational Pain:

God felt hurt by the behavior of His creation…

The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. ~Genesis 6:6 NIV

Jesus experienced rejection by his own people…

Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed…“Where did this man get his wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. ”Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?…” And they took offense to him. But Jesus said to the, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” (Matthew 13:54-57 NIV)

Jesus felt frustration when those He asked to be there for Him let him down…

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?” ~Mark 14:37 NIV

Emotional Pain:

Jesus’s heart was heavy for loss of a friend…

When Jesus went to Bethany due to the death of Lazarus (John 11:1-44 NIV), in verses 33 – 35 you see that when Mary fell at His feet with her broken heart, “When Jesus saw her weeping…he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled…Jesus wept.”

Physical Pain:

Jesus experienced unjustified and excruciating physical pain…

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. ~John 19:1-3 NIV

Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle. ~John 19:17-18 NIV

Spiritual Pain:

The Holy Spirit that dwells within us can be sorrowful when we stray from God’s ways…

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. ~Ephesians 4:30 NIV

Jesus’s spirit was grieved considering the path before Him and prayed for relief…

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch…Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from  him. ~Mark 14:34-35 NIV

Jesus felt pain when He was separated from God as He took on the punishment for our sin…

And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) ~Mark 15:34 NIV

Purpose over Pain:

In addition to experiencing pain, though I’m sure it wasn’t easy, our Father and our Savior both made the choice to focus on purpose over pain.

God our Father felt emotional pain, yet chose to give his only Son for us:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~John 3:16 NIV

Jesus our Savior felt spiritual and emotional pain as He anticipated His physical pain, yet chose to give His life for us:
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will , but what you will.” ~Mark 14:36 NIV

Our Creator, Savior and Helper knew and understood pain. In the face of undesired pain, God in all of His roles chose to focus on the greater purpose.

Moving from Pain to Purpose

You may be asking, “Does God have a purpose for my pain?” God may or may not reveal this to you specifically. However, if you focus on how to give your pain to God, you will be able to answer the question, “How can I turn my pain into purpose?”

This question is important to answer because you were made for purpose. You were created to use whatever parts of your being that God empowers you to use to grow in your spiritual walk and to impact others for His glory. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

So how do you turn your pain into purpose?

Even in the middle of pain, weakness, and obstacles, it’s important to agree with God’s Word saying, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14 NIV)

You have a human body made of flesh and bone. But your body also holds your spirit and soul–mind, will, and emotions.

Every single thing you do with your body inside and out, no matter how big or small, can glorify God. This is part of your purpose.

So you can be intentional with your thoughts, words, and actions to honor and reflect God in all areas of your life in the midst of your pain.

And your body is also the vessel that holds the special contents God has planted within you to share with the world to make your own unique impact. This is part of your purpose.

So any expression of your individual personality, values, strengths, spiritual gifts, and passions can be used to shine His light in the lives of others.

You can’t always lessen or stop some types of pain you’re experiencing in this world, but you can ask God to help you shift to an eternal perspective. Though you may feel powerless over your pain at times, with God you have the power to choose a healthy and purposeful response to pain and through pain.

You can intentionally focus on what you are able to do within the purposes God has designed you to fulfill in all the areas of your daily life and as a unique calling. To learn more about God’s purposes for you in my post “5 Areas to Seek God to Find Purpose as a Christian Woman”.

How to Walk with God to Move from Pain to Purpose

I lift my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. ~Psalm 121:1-2 NIV

Purpose comes from God, so to move from pain to purpose, it’s necessary to connect with Father, Son and Holy Spirit for spiritual and emotional healing, as well as renewing your mind, so that peace and hope can begin to grow in time within your mind, heart, and spirit enabling you to sense and carry out God’s will for you.

It’s an inner work. But these inner action steps are important because “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)

Intentionally seek and abide in His presence. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

There are 7 steps to expand the depth and breadth of your connection with God so you can begin to move from pain to purpose when you’re going through hard times in any area of life.

1 – Look to God

He will give you strength and peace…

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will  not be shaken. ~Psalm 16:8 NIV

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. ~Isaiah 26:3 NIV

2 – Lean on God

He will give you comfort and hope…

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. ~Psalm 55:22 NIV

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God ~Isaiah 43:2-3a NIV

3 – Sit with God

He will give you rest and confidence…

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” ~Psalm 46:10a NIV
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? ~Psalm 42:1-2 NIV

4 – Stand with God

He will give you courage and victory…

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. ~Ephesians 6:13 NIV

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us… ~Romans 8:35a,37 NIV

5 – Walk with God

He will give you direction and joy…

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. ~Proverbs 16:9 NIV

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:23-24 NIV

6 – Remain with God

He will give you perseverance and power…

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ~John 15:5 NIV
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” ~Matthew 14:28-31 NIV

7 – Go with God

He will give you purpose and opportunities for growth and impact…

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. ~Proverbs 20:5 NIV

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. ~Philippians 2:13 NIV

So instead of focusing on asking, “Does my pain have a purpose?” you can focus on the purposes that you know God has for you. As you walk in them and walk with God, He will reveal more of what you’re called to in this circumstance and in your life–whether that be just resting in Him or taking steps to help others.

Pain hurts. But God gives hope. And purpose helps your heart. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

God never wants to minimize your pain. Share your burdens with him in a real, honest way. He understands your pain and He is with you in your pain.

He wants you to look to Him because seeing God through your pain and suffering offers you the opportunity to walk in His peace and joy as you discover and fulfill more of your purpose in this season.

Choose to walk with God in the hard times. And never let go of His hand. Keep holding on because He will lead you to find hope in suffering as you find purpose in Him.

Additional resources to help you move from pain to purpose:

When you’re going through a painful season, you may wonder what the purpose is in this pain you’re experiencing. You may not always know the specific purpose for your specific pain, but there are steps you can take to uncover God’s purposes for you to carry out in your specific situation.

In my guest post at The Faith to Flourish Blog titled How to Find Purpose in Pain to Prepare for God’s Greater Vision for You, I talk about what it means to find purpose in pain, how God uses pain in your life, and steps to reveal and live with purpose in the middle of your pain. You can read it by clicking here.

Purpose does change everything. And it all starts with choosing to move closer to what God’s calling you to do in your daily life–even if you’re struggling because of pain in some areas of your life.

If you need more clarity on what God may be calling you to focus on in this season of life, I recommend you get my free Purposeful Living Assessment & Reflections Guide. This resource will help you assess the major areas of your daily life to identify where you need to better align with God’s vision for you, and then partner with God in reflection to take steps toward more purposeful, balanced and fulfilling living. To start your journey today, click here.