A tendency is to run away from pain, and to think that wisdom is learning to recognise pain in order that we might escape it sooner and more effectively.
The wisdom that we learn at the foot of the cross is that we are free to move toward pain.
It is a wisdom and freedom that cannot be fuelled by fear and duty.
It is a wisdom that is the life of love into which Jesus calls us when he bids us follow him.
We recognise pain, but a greater power directs our response.
Henri Nouwen illustrates that freedom in life:
The spiritual life is a life in which we are more and more able to be led, to be guided to hard places, to places we would rather not go. For Jesus it was the cross. For Peter it was the cross. For Paul and all the disciples, it meant a lot of suffering. It is not masochism. It is not self-flagellation. It is not being hard on ourselves. It is being in love. It is being so fully and so totally in love that we go to places we wold rather not go.
The interesting thing is that when we are in love we don’t feel the pain in the way that other people think we would. If we are truly in love, our eyes are not focused on what hurts. Our eyes are focused on the person we love. We make one step, and another step, and another step, and another step. A mother or father says, “Of course I will stay with my child who is sick. I love my child. I am not going to leave my child alone.” Other people might say, “They are really suffering.” But they have the energy to stay with their child who is ill, because they love their child so much.
When we are in love we can go to very difficult places and feel, not the pain first of all, but the love.
Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus, SPCK, 2019, pgs 88.