Pain Expands Our Capacity For Joy

Nikole Lim
464 words, 8K views, 15 comments

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Daily, my work requires me to delve into the hellish reality of unimaginable experiences of gross abuse. Neither words nor images can fully convey the emotional crises, psychological torment, and heart-wrenching pain that my daughters in these places have been forced to endure. When I feel like giving up under the weight of violent injustice, I am reminded of their stories. The survivors who refuse to give up, live into the new day—graciously extending themselves on behalf of others through their advocacy efforts, through their educational dreams, and through their compassion for other versions of themselves. Their shared experiences with me give me hope to also live into the new day—pursuing the vocational call toward justice once more.

In this journey of learning to love, my community of survivors taught me how. When words could not express the pain in hearts—we would sing and we would dance, we would cry and we would laugh—we would remind ourselves of the beauty we see in each other. I’ve seen that they are not defined by their past of trauma, but they are thriving through their rewritten stories—stories that are filled with audacious dreams. When given the opportunities to pursue those dreams again, we see that brokenness is not something to be hidden—but unveiled as a thing of beauty.

At every juncture of grief where my spirit was cracked to the point of no return, came an experience that mended it back together—reminding me that these survivors were the leaders I’ve been waiting for. It became very clear to me that the oppressed would be the ones to lead us into liberation. Through their stories, their wisdom, through their experiences of pain and their models of love, survivors have the potential to become the most powerful leaders in our midst.

I have learned that healing is hidden in the most unexpected places—in brokenness, in pain, in despair, in suffering because that is where love’s presence is a necessity. Just as light coexists together with darkness to make a photograph visible, the juxtaposition of seemingly opposing attributes have the potential to expand the capacity of our heart.

Pain expands our capacity for joy—simultaneously deepening and elevating our heart’s potential to experience a broader spectrum of pain and joy together. Without the experience of pain, we wouldn’t know what joy could be. I never knew what it was like to laugh unrestricted until being in community with survivors who have experienced so much pain, yet were able to laugh with freedom. They taught me how to experience joy, observe beauty, embody hope, and expand in love in ways that I never knew before.


Nikole Lim is a filmmaker who started Freely in Hope and authored Liberation is Here. Excerpt above from here.

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