The Pain of Being Present

By: Shannon Lee

That’s right. I said the PAIN of being present. So often we hear about how powerful being present can be, and if harnessed yes, being present can be powerful. But powerful does not equal ‘without pain’. In fact, most of us do NOT remain present BECAUSE of pain.

But here’s the thing…the power of remaining present is derived from integrating the pain felt in the present and staying there long enough for the pain to change you.

To transform you from who you were to who you are meant to be.

But most of us don’t get there. We don’t feel the power of remaining present because well…we don’t like to feel the pain associated with remaining present.

Being present requires us to intentionally experience ourselves in three ways:

  1. What do I feel in my body?
  2. What do I feel in my emotions?
  3. What stories am I telling in my mind?

Acknowledging what’s going on in our mind, emotions and body can be uncomfortable.

We might have to admit that we are telling ourselves stories that don’t align with our values, our beliefs…our faith. Then what? That’s scary so let’s not think about those things, right?

We might also realize we are feeling a sense of anger, worry or sadness. Well, good Christians shouldn’t feel that way so once again, MOVING ON!

And well, our bodies, well they are just here to serve us. They really don’t have anything to communicate other than minor annoyances in the form of stomach churning, headaches, ulcers, cancer and more…right?


I propose we sit with those awful thoughts and uncomfortable feelings and acknowledge the pain in our bodies. Those things are “what is” and therefore are the very things that put us in the present moment. Every time we ignore and fail to acknowledge what is happening to us in our bodies, minds and emotions, we are abandoning the present moment.

We are abandoning the opportunity for God to bring us transformation and true change, as well.

I tend to be pretty action-oriented. Oh, you have a problem? Let me fix it! But here’s the thing…sitting with the problem and all the yucky thoughts and emotions it brings up is exactly where God works and inspires us. But we must be willing to sit and wait…the Bible says it like this:

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the WAITING, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, IT DOESN’T MATTER. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us PRESENT before God. That’s why we can be so sure that EVERY DETAIL in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Romans 8:26-28 MSG

Even God values this in between, waiting, kind of sucky time we have to live through in order to experience change.  Matthew encourages us even more to pay attention to the now in this scripture:

“Give your ENTIRE attention to what God is doing RIGHT NOW, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

God lives in me. I pay attention to God by listening to Him through the mechanisms he has gifted to me: my mind, my emotions and my body.

He has gifted these things to you too. Give it a try. Just as you would acknowledge the pain and suffering of a dear friend facing a trial, offer the same to yourself. You’ll find God in that mess. You’ll be present in that mess. And the longer you can stay and “Be still” (Ps 46:10) you’ll experience true, divine and unspeakable joy.

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