Sometimes the unseen pain is the hardest to bear. A weight you haul around from place to place, invisible to those around you. Setting it down and picking it up. Setting it down and picking it up; over and over again no matter the cost; no matter the energy it takes. “Wherever you go, there you are” is how one philosopher once put it.

Not to say one person’s pain is more difficult than another’s. Not to say that at all. How can anyone quantify or characterize or grade someone else’s experience of pain? One should not. One cannot. Pain is pain. However, when the pain is camouflaged among the happiness and the suffering is masked by functioning it seems a bit more desperate. In a quiet, deliberate, and cunning way there is a danger mounting beneath the surface; a darkness bubbling next to the ordinary.

I wear my pain like a second skin. Like so many others walking around this earth my pain can be hot or cold; I can pick at it and scratch at it until it bleeds. I watch my pain for signs of time and age, wrinkles and creases that give it character and meaning. I respond with attempts to cover it and beautify it; make it less offensive to the everyday.

Like skin, pain has its limit. It is vulnerable and susceptible to long and lasting damage. When exposed to certain elements it will respond in kind. My pain reached a critical point recently. I suffered a second degree burn to my skin. Literally, burned my inner arm on a scalding pot leaving a pretty good size wound which promptly became red and oozing and angry. Infection set in along with sharp and nagging and actual pain. Suddenly the invisible became visible. The hidden turned inside out and my experience internally was branded on the outside for anyone to see. Focus shifted. Clarity sharpened. External damage requires a different approach. The urgency intensifies. Neglected emotional baggage gets triaged and is dragged with little resistance to the front of the line.

Somehow physical pain is validated in a way emotional pain is not. We allow emotional and spiritual distress to reach a level of crisis that would never; could never be responsibly translated into its physical counterpart.

What might happen if the emotional health of every person around us were exposed in a physical equivalent? What if the silent groans of an injured spirit became unsettling cries in the atmosphere? What if the decay of an untended heart grew into the stench of rotting food in the kitchen trash? What if the roots of insecurity and tendrils of discontent in the soul started to grow along the walls and floors of our houses and schools and offices?

That is the one thing I continue to come back to. Each time I pick up my pain, put it on like a cloak and go about living I come back to this one thing. Death is coming. Death is coming to this pain. Death is coming to the suffering. One day all the uncovered things will be brought to light and all the darkness of this world will be flooded in the glorious Light of Jesus returning to make it all new. On His skin will be the marks of the ultimate pain, the ultimate price He paid on the cross. His wounds, in the light of eternity, will still be visible to all He died to save. Our wounds, in the light of eternity, will still be visible to the returning Savior. Each one laid bare for His burning touch. The marks left on our skin will be for His glory; a constant reminder of the beauty that was there all along. Unseen beneath the pain.