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The Pain Tunnel

Updated: May 16

Have you ever been in a long, dark tunnel before? I entered an old, abandoned mining tunnel once out in the Nevada desert. Probably not one of my brighter moments! It’s an eerie feeling being in a small, enclosed space. When you first enter, you can see the sunlight and the blue sky behind you. There is still a sense of the wind and the world just outside. As you get deeper and deeper into the tunnel, however, reality begins to suspend itself. Outside it could be cold, windy, hot, rainy. Once you’re deep in a tunnel you won’t know any of that. You begin to feel separated, detached. It feels otherworldly.

Tunnel looking out

Pain is a lot like that tunnel. It takes us to a dark, scary place where it’s hard to remember what’s real. We can end up in an emotional tunnel for many reasons, and trying to avoid having to go through hard times isn’t always a bad thing. The challenge for me becomes when I’m already inside the tunnel and I don’t want to do what it takes to go through it.

Ever been there before? You hide from yourself and your feelings. You hide from other people. You try to “fake it until you make it” and “keep on keeping on” instead of looking your pain squarely in the eye and making the decision to tackle and work through it. You know it’s going to be hard even though it’s better and brighter on the other side, but you just want to be through the tunnel already and on to the healed and happy part.

I have done this more times than I care to admit. It’s funny because I’ve spent far more energy trying to climb my way all around the tunnel than I ever would’ve spent if I’d simply had the courage to go through it. But who likes pain? Who likes the anger, bitterness and hurt that accompany it? Not me! The irony is I usually find myself facing an even deeper, darker, longer tunnel that’s far more daunting to go through when I’m done frantically running around. Reacting to my pain instead of working through it tends to lead to bad decisions, wrong choices, and just that much more pain!

There’s a scripture that used to make me cringe every time I read it. In Romans 5:3-5 it says, “But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our heart by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (NIV) I liked the character and hope part. I just thought there were a whole lot of other ways I would rather learn the perseverance/patience part! I didn’t want to have to go through trials to learn it.

Yet when I quit fighting the process and started working to connect with God so He could lead me through the tunnel, I was amazed. I learned in the depths of challenge and despair I could also see the depth of God’s mercy and love in ways I had only glimpsed before. The lessons I received were and are invaluable, and my faith became solid, unshakeable. My hope was restored.

Now I still can’t say I like to go through challenge but in the end, if I’ll allow it to be, the process can be an amazing blessing. And while I doubt I’ll ever shout, “bring on the dark tunnel!” I am far more confident God will help me discover some beautiful gems as I go through, making me richer—and wiser—on the other side.

For Further Thought: Romans 8:28 says, “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan,” (VOICE). Even though God doesn’t want us to have to suffer, He does promise to make something beautiful come from it. What is a blessing you have seen come out of a time of trial? How you can use that blessing as a relevant reminder to stay faithful in new seasons of challenge?


Barb is a speaker, author, and entrepreneur. She has Bachelor’s Degrees in International History and in Education, and a Master’s Degree in Education. She has spoken at conferences and taught classes throughout the U.S. about faith, relationships, leadership and courage through trial. Her book, Using What’s Broken to Boldly Shine, is a powerful read of transformation through trial. Her blogging is focused on giving people encouragement and strength for their personal journey. Barb serves as the Executive Director for The Dented Fender Ministry and runs a successful real estate and development company. She currently resides in Dayton, Ohio with her husband and blended family of seven.


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