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“Wherever pain seems to operate, the presence of God is.” I remember hearing this quote a long time ago; so long ago that I can’t even remember wherefrom, or who said it. I didn’t really understand it at first, either; not for many years actually. Wherever pain seems to operate…hmmm, yes…profound…

I liked it so much, though, I wrote it down as an affirmation. It would come up periodically in my affirmation card rotation, so I would say it religiously (and still do to this day), often pondering its meaning, and how it might be applied to my life on a practical level.

I do not necessarily see this as a specific religious, or better yet, denominational, statement, even though the reference to God is made. I think one could just as easily substitute Yahweh, or Allah, or Krishna, or the Universe, or anything of meaning to the sayer, quite honestly, as it is the essence, I believe, that matters. It speaks of omnipresence, yes, and maybe that’s obvious, but again it’s the practicality to my life that hits home.

Every seven to ten years we go through major life shifts which, as unsettling as they may be at the time, create the necessary dynamics that allow us to step into the next phase of our destiny. Like all things, our lives experience fluctuations—momentary victories, successes and support, as well as challenges, failures…defeats—both sides necessary for our growth and fulfillment in life.

At first glance, we may perceive any particular challenge as a very bad turn of events, something we wouldn’t wish on anybody for the pain; but what these moments really are, in the big picture, are catalysts for change. You see, most experiences that catapult us into the next major phase of our lives require pain. Without it, we probably wouldn’t change very much. Who the heck wants to change when things are going well? It’s the rare bird who purposefully looks for heartache so that he or she may grow (they do exist; just rare, that’s all).

If you look back on your life, you will see these major shifts that have occurred in cycles, each one being shrouded in pain. Without a doubt, we also have many minor shifts in between, but you’ll probably agree that the growth in those cases is more steady than steep. Then along comes a doozy—a death, a divorce, a bankruptcy—and you might even think that your heart is going to condense and sink so deep into your abdomen that you’ll be vomiting any minute…and frankly, some people do.

But it’s these moments that truly define us. That’s another saying I didn’t really get right off the bat, as I thought it was just more pressure to act “in the right way,” whatever that might be. But because we must, by necessity, transcend the experience to grow—to evolve—then of course these shifts define us. We are never the same after these major life shifts, because as painful as they are, they are necessary to complete our destiny—and our destiny is our life.

The all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever present is the source of our experiences. We may not know how any particular one is going to turn out, but in the infinite, it is already done. I like to play a game and mentally expand myself so that I can see down on a smaller version of my life, like viewing an ant farm perhaps. But also to be able to see it in four dimensions, which includes time, such that on the far left of the image is my youth, and on the far right is my future. I’m in a sort of cosmic helicopter looking down at the traffic, and I can see how what I am doing yesterday actually leads to where I am today, in the same way a traffic chopper might see the development of a traffic jam as it is happening. When taken from this context, it’s pretty easy to understand how all my challenges have led to amazing growth in my life. In fact, if it weren’t for the deaths, divorces or bankruptcies, I wouldn’t be who I am today; I wouldn’t do what I do, or have what I have. And I’d be a fool to not be grateful for all of it.

But have it, I wouldn’t without the pain. Wherever pain seems to operate, the presence of God is. Oh yes, I get it… We do have a destiny, and all this on the left of the ant farm is necessary for all this on the right of the ant farm to happen. I get it…yes.

And I can look still farther to the right, even though it is clouded…but I am able to use my imagination. And I can be confident that whatever turmoil I have today, I am being led to where I need to be tomorrow. It’s destiny fulfillment. The all-knowing knows even when I don’t. But now I understand that wherever pain seems to operate, even in the moments of my greatest distress, the presence of God is…and it’s called growth—a part of the cyclical nature of all things.

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