The Painless Life You Can Enjoy
PAIN is something of a paradox. It can constitute a dreaded affliction. Or it can serve as a real protection.
The sensation of pain causes us immediately to draw our hand away from an object that is so hot it would damage our flesh. This sensation of pain—this marvelous warning mechanism of the body—is not what the Bible is speaking about when it promises that “neither will . . . pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:4.
What the Bible refers to here is the nagging, chronic pain that makes daily life miserable for literally hundreds of millions of people and causes them to spend billions of dollars in the quest for relief. What a blessing it will be when never again does a person suffer with arthritis, a headache, an earache, a toothache, or is plagued by any other kind of sickness or injury! Yet how can that situation ever be realized?
The Changes Coming
First, as we saw in the previous article, there must be a radical change in the present system. And God promised that there will be! He purposes to change our “earth,” completely removing all present kingdoms, or governments. He will accomplish this by means of his own government, as the Bible says: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom . . . will crush and put an end to all [the existing] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
But how can a change of government rid our bodies of the pains that so often afflict them? It can do so because of the wisdom and power of the one that God has chosen to head his government, Jesus Christ. Of him, a Bible prophecy says: “The government shall be upon his shoulder. . . . Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isa. 9:6, 7, Authorized Version) A person with such authority can use his knowledge of the needs of the human body to prevent painful diseases.
An experience of the British fleet in the eighteenth century illustrates how this may come about. The dreaded ‘scurvy infection’ ravaged the seamen, killing thousands yearly. Their gums would swell and bleed, their teeth would become loose, soreness and stiffness would develop in their joints and lower extremities. But then it was discovered that something vital was missing from their diet—foods containing vitamin C. So when lemon juice, and later lime juice, was made part of the regulation diet of British seamen, no longer did they suffer and die of scurvy.
The story is similar regarding the painful, deadly disease beriberi. It was discovered some years ago that among people who depend largely on a rice diet, those who ate polished rice developed beriberi, while those who ate unrefined rice did not. Thus the knowledge that rice hulls contain a vital substance, more recently identified as thiamine, made possible the control of painful, and often fatal, beriberi.
But the knowledge and wisdom of Jesus Christ, now resurrected in heaven, is far greater than that of any earthly physician. He fully understands the workings of our physical bodies, as he has proven. While he was a man on earth over 1,900 years ago he cured the worst of diseases and afflictions, thus demonstrating what he will do on a larger scale as ruler of God’s kingdom. Of one instance, the Bible says:
“Then great crowds approached him, having along with them people that were lame, maimed, blind, dumb, and many otherwise, and they fairly threw them at his feet, and he cured them; so that the crowd felt amazement as they saw the dumb speaking and the lame walking and the blind seeing.”—Matt. 15:30, 31.
What a marvelous change! And God’s ruler Jesus Christ will eliminate, not just scurvy, beriberi and other afflictions that men, with their limited knowledge, have been able to control, but all human ills! This will be not in just one small area but earth wide! The Creator’s promise is: “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isa. 33:24) Yes, then, under the rule of God’s kingdom, will be fulfilled the promise, “neither will . . . pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:4.
Some information about pain may help us to appreciate how, even when a person might ordinarily be expected to feel pain, the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, will see to it that it is not felt.
What Is Pain?
This seems to be a simple enough question, “What is pain?” But it is not. Dr. John J. Bonica, authority on anesthesia and pain, notes: “If you asked 100 different authorities that question, you would get 100 different answers.” But why?
Science News of October 26, 1974, explains: “Clinicians still aren’t sure what pain is and how to treat it.” More recently, Dr. Peter James Dyke, professor of Neurology at the Mayo Medical School, said: “We do not pretend to know how pain works.”
Research has revealed pain to be much more complex than previously thought. Very illuminating were the studies made about 20 years ago of a woman who, during life, had no sensation of pain. The doctors at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada tried to find out the reason for this. “They looked for the nerve endings,” explained The Star Weekly Magazine. “If Joyce didn’t have any, that would account for the girl’s insensitivity. But they were present and apparently perfect.
“Next, the doctors examined the nerve fibers supposed to connect the nerve endings with the brain. Here, surely, a defect would be found. But it wasn’t. The fibers were all perfect, as far as could be seen, aside from those degenerated due to injury.
“Finally, examinations were made of the girl’s brain and, once more, no defect of any kind could be established. According to all existing knowledge and theory, this girl should have felt pain normally, yet she couldn’t even feel tickling.” She was, however, sensitive to pressure when applied to the skin, and could distinguish between the touch of a pin head and a pin point, although the pricking of the pin did not hurt.
Prior to these Saskatchewan studies, it was generally assumed that pain is a form of sensation like sight, hearing and touch. Pain, it was believed, is felt by special nerve endings in the skin, and is transmitted through particular nerve fibers to the brain. In this view the body has a sort of pain telephone system, with pain impulses traveling along a specific nerve pathway like a telephone line. But as seen from persons who seem to be normal in all other respects except in their ability to feel pain, the matter is much more complex. Other examples also illustrate the complexity of pain.
Some persons have had an arm or a leg amputated, but feel great pain as though it were in the missing limb. Also, there is what is called “referred pain”—persons have a malfunction in a certain organ, say the heart, yet feel pain in another body part, say the arm. Now, too, acupuncture has added new dimensions to the puzzle of pain.
Acupuncture is a medical procedure in which hair-thin needles are inserted into the body at certain well-defined points. It has become the preferred method of anesthesia in China. Utilizing acupuncture as the only pain-killer, major operations are performed on conscious patients.
The Medical Tribune reported: “Dr. White and Dr. Dimond, both cardiologists, watched open heart surgery in Peking with acupuncture anesthesia. They said that the patient was awake, alert, relaxed during surgery, and that the surgery was performed as well as any they had ever seen.”
In an attempt to explain some of these mystifying aspects of pain, a “gate theory” has been offered. Opening and closing of a so-called “gate” in the spinal cord is said to either permit or block passage of pain signals to the brain. Thus, it is thought, acupuncture may prevent pain, even in a fully conscious person undergoing open heart surgery, by triggering impulses that close the spinal-cord gate to block pain signals from reaching the brain. Although this is the leading new theory, its authors themselves admit that it cannot explain all the varied facts of pain.
Now new discoveries are providing further explanations. In the past couple of years scientists have found that our bodies produce their own pain-killing drugs, called enkephalins and endorphins. “It appears,” explains Dr. Solomon Snyder of Johns Hopkins University, “that the human brain produces its own morphine.”
It was in December 1975 that the discovery of the first natural analgesics was announced. These were isolated from pigs’ brains, and called enkephalins. Then, early in 1976, the first of a number of related substances, named endorphins, were isolated. Beta-endorphin, the second endorphin discovered, was isolated from dried camel pituitary glands. It is, reportedly, “at least 20 to 40 times more effective than morphine in the relief of pain when injected directly into the brains of rats and mice.”
No one yet knows the exact functions of enkaphalins and endorphins in dulling or blocking out pain. “The endorphins are probably not constantly secreted,” says Dr. Avram Goldstein of Stanford University in California; “they are held in reserve for extreme situations” when the body needs relief from pain.
Bruce Pomeranz of Canada’s University of Toronto believes that endorphins explain why acupuncture kills pain. He suggests that the needles stimulate nerves that cause body cells to release endorphins. The endorphins then go to work somehow to dull the nerves that are involved in the perception of pain.
These drugs, it is believed, may also answer the mystery of those people who do not have the ability to feel pain. “If their brains or bloodstreams contain higher levels of one or another of these chemicals,” notes one researcher, “their insensitivity to pain would perhaps be explained.”
Importance of Mind and Emotions
It is a fact, too, that one’s emotions and frame of mind have a lot to do with perception of pain. Football players involved deeply in the game, or soldiers in the heat of battle, may be seriously injured and yet feel little or no pain at the time. Also, women who are trained to relax and remain calm during childbirth often bear their children with much less pain than anxious women who receive pain-killing drugs to relieve their agony.
Dr. John J. Bonica commented on people’s different responses to pain: “The response is influenced by early learning, ethnic background, personality, susceptibility to suggestion, concentration, mood and other factors. Fear and anxiety cause an exaggerated response. . . . We think that anxiety causes the brain to send messages down to the spinal cord to open the gates so that, in fact, he feels more pain.”
Thus, one may learn to sense pain. It evidently can be a conditioned reflex. Dr. Seymour Diamond, a headache expert at the Chicago Medical School, says, for example, that nine out of 10 headaches are due to emotions and other psychological factors and only 10 percent have an underlying organic cause. Noting the connection between pain and learning—or conditioning—Dr. Wilbert Fordyce, a professor of psychology who specializes in problems of pain, explains:
“The question is not whether the pain is real. Of course it is real. The question is what are the crucial factors which influence it. If I talk with you just before dinner about a ham sandwich, you salivate. It is very real. But it occurs because of conditioning. There’s no ham sandwich there. Human beings are exquisitely sensitive to conditioning. It influences social behavior, salivating, blood pressure, the speed of digesting food, pain, all sorts of things.”
Just as your emotions and frame of mind can intensify pain, so can they suppress or dull it, as already noted with ball players and soldiers hurt in the heat of a contest. Servants of Jehovah God, who calmly look to him with complete confidence and reliance in times of trial, also have had the experience of their pain being suppressed. A traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a country where persecution of Christians was severe, wrote: “Regardless of the amount of insulting and beatings that we received, a few seconds would pass and we would not feel anything more even though the beatings continued.”
Christ’s apostles may have had a similar experience, the Bible explaining: “They summoned the apostles, flogged them, and ordered them to stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name, and let them go. These, therefore, went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.”—Acts 5:40, 41.
You Can Enjoy a Life Without Pain
Despite attempts to understand it, much about pain still remains a mystery. It is beyond the ability of humans to control. Things that men have learned about pain help us to appreciate that the Bible promise, “neither will . . . pain be anymore,” is something that only God’s Kingdom ruler, Jesus Christ, will fulfill. (Rev. 21:4) At the same time the body’s marvelous warning mechanism that produces pain will not be banished. It will continue to function for mankind’s good.
But how will Christ relieve his subjects of all unwanted pain? As noted earlier, it is God’s will for Christ to lift them out of their sinfulness and to restore the obedient ones to perfect health. So a major factor in bringing relief from pain will be the healing of his subjects’ minds, so that their emotions and mental attitudes are wholesome and proper. But the healing of their physical bodies will be important too. Under the Kingdom rule, the various body mechanisms involved in controlling pain—including the body’s production of its own pain-killing drugs—will function properly. Thus pain will never cause suffering again!
You can enjoy life under God’s Kingdom rule when the kind of pain that plagues millions of people no longer exists. Why, the promise is that even “death will be no more.” (Rev. 21:4) But you cannot realize these blessings without effort; you need to do something. Jesus Christ pointed to a fundamental requirement that you must meet when he said in prayer to God: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to assist you to acquire this vital knowledge. Just ask one of them locally, or write to the publishers of this magazine, expressing your wish to have a Bible study in your home or at any other convenient location. Arrangements will then be made for you to learn more about God’s purposes for humans to enjoy a life without pain.
[Blurb on page 7]
“Clinicians still aren’t sure what pain is.”
[Blurb on page 8]
Our bodies produce their own pain-killing drugs.