The Purpose of Pain

The Purpose of Pain

World changers typically have their greatest impact where they have experienced the most personal pain.

In The Alchemist, the Shepard loses everything to live his Personal Legend.

Victor Frankel is sent to a concentration camp and clings to hope by finding significance in the suffering, saving countless lives by helping others do the same.

Fredrick Douglas escaped from slavery and then courageously told his story of anguish and pain to fuel the fight against it.

There can’t be redemption if there wasn’t first a fall.

The Purpose of Pain

The Hero’s Journey

The hero always experiences an “all is lost” moment before the dramatic rise. (tweet that)

The hero’s greatest struggle then transforms into their greatest strength. Purpose ripened with pain, not just for redemption for themselves, but for the world around them.

You can’t create a masterpiece without mashing, sculpting, and molding the clay–and then throwing the whole thing in the fire.

In the Bible, there is story after story of a great promise spoken over someone and then a direct detour into the desert and prison.

Abraham, King David, the Apostle Paul, Joseph, yes even Jesus, the main-squeeze himself, was “led by the Spirit” to spend forty days and forty nights alone in the desert.

In probably the most memorable and publicized desert experience, Moses led the Israelites through a little 40-year jaunt through the desert. 40 years!

But the thing about Moses is that he just didn’t spend forty years in the desert, no he spent eighty! Yep, 80 freaking years!

Before leading the Israelites through the desert, he spent forty years prior with the Midians in “a dry and arid place,” similar to the desert he’d lead his people through.

As Os Hillman writes,

“The desert was a place of preparation for one of the greatest assignments given to one man. Did you hear what I just said? Yes, the desert was the place of preparation. Moses was battle-trained in the same environment he would spend another forty years…What kind of assignment is God preparing you for? Does He have you in the desert of preparation? Learn well the lessons you are there to learn. You may find you are called to be a deliverer, just like Moses.”

Maybe God’s not punishing desert-dwellers, he’s preparing.

Maybe your purpose is so important that it can only be forged in the difficult and the dire. 

As Dallas Willard writes,

“All great works are prepared in the desert, including redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artist in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night.”

No water, no food, and no shade — it’s easy to die in the desert, no doubt about it. But if we can stay alive here, with all our old comforts burnt and blown away, well then we can stay alive, and thrive, anywhere else.

Something significant happens to us when we are void of what we depended on.

There is significant purpose and promise in your pain.

The pain you are experiencing now might be your life’s purpose later. (tweet that)


  1. Jocelyn

    I’m pretty sure I’m stuck in the hot, dusty, sweaty, crappy part of the desert right now … Keep hoping for someone (preferably a cute guy who’s got his act together) on a camel to rescue me and get me outta there ::fingers crossed::

    • admin

      Jocelyn – Well just when you think it can’t get any crappier…well…it…does…then a little better…than 10 times crappier…but you keep moving forward despite it all and then all of the sudden you see a shade of green on the horizon, and next thing you know jumping in that refreshing blue pool of awesome.

      And you didn’t even need the cute guy on the camel to get there. Because lets be honest, that camel probably is headed right back into the hot and crappy. Now you just have company. Which is cool and all until you’re sharing the same tent and it’s 110 degrees and all his cuteness annoys the crap out of you.

  2. admin

    Thanks Lindsay for sharing these great points! There’s definitely heaps of humility in this place, but humility that will serve us very well in the future if we will allow it.

  3. Sarah Noonan

    This makes sense to me, but for me the anxiety comes from not knowing if I’ve crossed over to the other side.

    • admin

      Yep. Completely agree Sarah. So I guess the only way to find out is to keep walking and take notes.

  4. April

    Between this post & the ‘expectations’ guest post, your blog was the perfect pick-me-up I needed this week. Thanks for being awesome as always!

    • admin

      Thanks April! I can’t wait for the April guest post on All Groan Up. That’s going to be the pick me up I need.

      • April

        cool idea! I’ll brainstrorm something & get back to you : )

    • admin

      Awesome. So true. Thanks Sarah

  5. Sarah Noonan

    Thank you!

    As someone who is married, a parent and having found a passion to pursue in your writing/speaking, yet someone who clearly understands what twenty-somethings like myself who haven’t yet achieved these things are going through – what are your thoughts? Have you felt yourself arrive at a point where the feelings I describe, while still part of your life, are less worrisome?

    I realize these are personal questions so feel free to answer as you feel comfortable – I would love to hear whatever you have to say.

  6. Meagan

    Such a good article! Definitely has served as a good reminder that things can and will get better and to be excited for whats at the other side of the desert! Thanks for having such a great website 🙂

  7. Estrela

    Pass me a tall glass of water, I’m dying of thirst in this dry arid place. Or so it feels. Thank you Paul. this is just the pick me up I needed. It gets better, it just has to suck first.

    • admin

      Thanks Estrela!

  8. Raquel Castillo

    But… Will we ever see cute guy on the camel again? Will there be other cute guys on camels? In some countries, camels are a commodity. Like the Rolls Royces of the desert.

  9. Stephen Bassette

    Wow, this is *exactly* what I needed right now. Thank you SO much, this explains a LOT. I’ve been feeling, especially most recently, like my whole life as a Christian has just been a long, excruciating “forging” experience… and at the same time, a lot of Christians have met me for the first time and told me right away that they sense that I’m destined for a HUGE purpose later in life. So this makes so much sense to me. Seriously, you are so awesome for posting this.

    • admin

      Thanks Stephen! Amazing to hear


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