Most of the time, I can handle discomfort fairly well. To me, having a tooth filled without any anesthetic is uncomfortable, not painful. I have most of my dental work done without any numbing agents whatsoever, unless it's a root canal, a crown, or having my wisdom teeth out. Call me a wimp, but I do have my limits.
Discomfort is the typical broken toe. These hardly slow me down any more. Pain is accidentally and abruptly having the nail of my big toe torn off. I suddenly realized why this is such effective torture. Ouch.
Being hit in the eye hard enough to see a fancy light show and be knocked to the ground --- discomfort. Having corneal abrasions --- pain. I'm a super wimp when it comes to my ultra-sensitive eyes, so much so that I'm a test case for contact lenses and eye drops. Very few are able to pass muster with me.
My labor with child #4 was, except for the last three contractions, only uncomfortable, to the point that I didn't want to believe the midwives when they arrived, examined me, and claimed I was fully dilated. I was still waiting for serious labor. My labor with child #6? That was serious. I'm still sometimes amazed I survived without pain meds.
I know some women who can handle grueling labors but would rather die than even think about having a tooth filled without pain killing drugs. I know other women who can walk around with serious corneal abrasions and not complain, but who would cry buckets if ever hit in the eye like I was. We all have our own pain tolerances, and even those can vary, depending on our circumstances.
This was something that I was thinking about recently as I was pondering the Scriptural admonition to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Sometimes, what makes someone else weep wouldn't necessarily make me weep, and vice versa. I may not view someone else's suffering as all that big of a deal, because I'm not in their shoes. Maybe I've never, for example, had a broken leg, so I don't know what the big deal is all about.
There is a man I know who, years ago, lost his job and plunged into somewhat of a depression, without the energy to look for another one until things got truly desperate and everyone he loved was giving him major "snap out of it!" speeches. A few years later, he lost another job. This time the stakes were much higher; he had a wife and little mouths to feed. By the time he got home that evening, he already had another job. What was a major life trauma for him before was, this time, simply a bump in the road.
When we suffer, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit, Who comforts us in our afflictions, so that we may comfort others. Suffering, if we allow God to have His way with us, will produce compassion. After my miscarriage, it was those women who had walked that road before me who were best able to minister to me in my grief. They knew. They had experienced God's mercy and grace and faithfulness, amidst unspeakable sorrow.
Sometimes we just need to listen. I may not understand another person's pain, or why they are suffering with something that doesn't seem that serious to me. But I shouldn't demand, "Why are you crying just because the dentist refused to give you a shot?" I shouldn't make light of their pain. It may seem trivial to me but, if they are weeping, God requires me to put aside my own feelings and become tenderhearted.
It's not about me. It's about them.