I have experienced a great deal of physical pain since my diagnosis with cerebellar degeneration in 1988. My level of pain caused me to sweat, have rapid and shallow breathing and caused my heart rate to rise. I did not enjoy it! However, the pain did have long-lasting and positive results in that it was purgative and unitive, as Christians would say. My pain and near death experiences were purgative in that they caused me to let go of my attachments to most (all?) transient things within the created order. Very cleansing. I found my pain to be unitive in that my connection (prayer of silence, meditation, contemplation) with God, what I learned and the strength I got was the only thing that reduced the pain and made it bearable.
I have come to rely on infused prayer daily to provide me with the strength and knowledge to keep participating in life and being of service to those around me. Quite honestly, I don’t think this life would have been possible without the pain or the “dark nights” that St. John describes.
The resultant connection with God and my current way of life, cause me to think that my pain was worth what I went through. My pain, near death experiences and dark nights of the soul have been very effective at stripping away everything other than the eternal truths of selfless love, compassion, inclusiveness and the oneness of all things. I don’t think my realizations and increased connection could have been accomplished any other way, in my case.