You would not expect a physician who dedicated his life to alleviating suffering to call himself "a lobbyist for pain." Yet working as a missionary surgeon in India led Paul Brand to conclude that most of the ravages of leprosy—open ulcers, blindness, missing fingers and toes—can be traced to a simple loss of sensation. Without the warning signals of pain, leprosy patients were unwittingly destroying their bodies. Such observations gave Brand a view of both pain and pleasure that is at odds with our culture's conventional wisdom. Readers of Christianity Today may know Brand from his books Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and In His Image, and from his term as president of the International Christian Medical and Dental Society. His new book, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants (Zondervan), from which this article is adapted, tells the story of Brand's career and how he came to his unusual approach to pain and pleasure.
My professional life has revolved around pain, and by living in different cultures I have observed at close hand the widely diverse reactions it elicits. I served my medical internship in London during the most harrowing days and nights of the Blitz, when the Luftwaffe was pounding a proud city into rubble. Physical hardship was a constant companion, the focus of nearly every conversation. Yet I have never lived among people so buoyant; now I read that 60 percent of Londoners who lived through the Blitz remember it as the happiest period of their lives.
After the war I moved to India. In that land of poverty and omnipresent suffering, I learned that pain can be borne with dignity and calm acceptance. It was there I began treating leprosy patients, pariahs whose tragedy stems from the absence ...1