Britney Lyn Hamm Don't Fear the Pain

Do Not Fear the Pain

Britney Lyn Hamm Don't Fear the PainTen years ago, in preparation for the natural birth of our first child, my husband and I took a childbirth class with a doula. She taught us many helpful things, but one of the most impactful was this: do not fear the pain. Fear is the enemy of pain. Fear makes pain worse.

She explained that instead of allowing my body to tense up in fearful response to the pain, I would need to embrace the pain…to breathe into the pain, which would relax my body and help me get through it. Leaning into the pain instead of fighting against it would allow my delivery to progress more quickly and smoothing. Healing and joy would be in closer reach if I could embrace the pain, not fight it, not run from it, not try to ignore it (which, as anyone who’s been in labor can tell you, is impossible!), not fear it.

Four natural births later, I can attest that her counsel was spot on. Tensing up when a contraction began or intensified never helped. Leaning into my amazing birth partner (my husband), putting all my weight into him, and breathing deeply into the pain so that my body could relax, did help. It didn’t remove the pain, but it got me through it, one contraction at a time. With each labor, I learned to do this better. Though my labors got shorter and more intense, each one became “easier”—I became calmer, more confident, and more relaxed through the contractions.

I learned the lesson about pain in childbirth, and I now teach it to my kids when they stub their toe or run into a wall (that happens frequently in our household). I fix my eyes on their wide eyes or take their tense little body in my arms, wrap my arms around them, and say, “breathe through the pain. Relax.” We take a deep breath together, and they get through it.

The last couple years have taught me how true this is in life as well. Fearing the pain of whatever we are going through makes for a more painful and extended process. Often it even inhibits healing and squashes the joy that is on the other side – and even in the midst of – pain and grief.

If we want to heal well, if we want to birth joy and spiritual fruit through our suffering, then we can’t run from grief. We can’t ignore our heartache. We can’t cover our sorrow in Christian cliches and spiritual platitudes. We can’t tense up in fear of what the pain will do to us.

Instead of fighting against the pain, we fight for joy in the midst of the pain, just as I fought alongside the pain for the birth of my children. We lean into the pain, leaning against our ultimate birth partner, our Heavenly Father, breathing deeply against His chest, feeling every moment of the pain with our eyes fixed on the goal at the end of the pain.

This morning, a song and communion followed the sermon. As soon as the first chords of the song struck on the guitar, overwhelming emotion flooded me. I knew that song. It’s one of the three songs we sang at the funeral of a dear friend’s child, who passed into the arms of Jesus exactly two years ago today. I could barely sing a word through my tears as I was transported back in time to a day that is poignantly seared in my mind as the most profound worship experience of my life – singing songs of praise with our hands lifted high, tears streaming down our faces, and hearts breaking at a funeral with a casket far too small.

I know it wasn’t a coincidence that we sang that song today. The Lord was inviting me to grieve, to remember, to pray for my friends. He was inviting me into that place of lamenting worship, a place where He always draws me near and meets me with profound comfort.

After lunch, I came upstairs to have some quiet Jesus time and writing time while my kids nap/rest. I turn on Pandora, and what’s the first song to come on? The same song. Again. Cue another round of tears. I sent my husband a text with a screenshot of my Pandora: “Apparently the Lord is drawing me to worship in the grief today. Both the grief for our friends and everything that season of life became for us in the short few weeks after Sadie’s passing.”

That song ended. Another song came on. It was the song we sang at the end of Easter service at my brother’s church nearly two years ago after my dad had his stroke, my parents’ marriage blew up, and our family turned inside out. Worshipping that Easter Sunday, while processing grief and pain on a variety of levels, is the second most poignant worship experience of my life. I can remember exactly what I felt and thought as I sang that song, arms lifted high, tears streaming down my face. I can remember locking eyes with my big brother as he played drums on the stage, knowing that the song was speaking the same thing to us.

Today, God gave me three invitations to embrace the pain. I could have left the room or skipped the songs. The thought crossed my mind – I hate crying, after all. But then I would have missed the profound beauty of His presence in those moments as I allowed myself to remember and grieve for my friends, myself, and my family.  I would have missed the way He fills me with hope and joy as the song ends and relief rushes through my heart like relief flooding my body as one contraction flows into a moment of reprieve. I would have missed reflecting on all the marks of His grace and mercy over the last two years. I would have missed the opportunity to reach out to my friends with a word of support.

I don’t live in a constant state of dwelling on the grief and pain of my own experiences or those close to me. But when these invitations come, when it’s time to reflect and grieve, I take a deep breath, lean into Jesus, and embrace the pain for the moment. Because I’ve learned that there’s nothing to fear in the pain; in fact, there is beauty to be found there.

Friends, whatever pain you are experiencing today, whatever griefs and sorrows you are tempted to fear, to tense up against, to run from, to hide, to escape, to ignore, to smother with unhelpful platitudes, to fight against, I encourage you: Embrace the pain. Take a deep breath. Lean into your Heavenly Father. Feel Him drawing you close, championing you as He whispers in your ear, “We’ll get through this. Trust me. The pain is not the end of this story.” Sing His praise as you cry out and lament, as you remember and grieve, as you question and wrestle.

Don’t fear the pain, because the greater the pain, the greater the joy on the other side.


Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart – He finds it full – He begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace….Another reason why we are often happiest in our troubles is this – then we have the closest dealings with God…There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains, no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. They bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, trouble believer, do not fret over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.

(Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, February 12th)


(1) I will exalt you, Adonai, because you drew me up;
you didn’t let my enemies rejoice over me.
(2) Adonai my God, I cried out to you,
and you provided healing for me.
(3) Adonai, you lifted me up from Sh’ol;
you kept me alive when I was sinking into a pit.

(4) Sing praise to Adonai, you faithful of his;
and give thanks on recalling his holiness.
(5) For his anger is momentary,
but his favor lasts a lifetime.
Tears may linger for the night,
but with dawn come cries of joy.

(6) Once I was prosperous and used to say,
that nothing could ever shake me —
(7) when you showed me favor, Adonai,
I was firm as a mighty mountain.
But when you hid your face,
I was struck with terror.

(8) I called to you, Adonai;
to Adonai I pleaded for mercy:
(9) “What advantage is there in my death,
in my going down to the pit?
Can the dust praise you?
Can it proclaim your truth?
(10) Hear me, Adonai, and show me your favor!
Adonai, be my helper!”

(11) You turned my mourning into dancing!
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
 (12) so that my well-being can praise you and not be silent;
Adonai my God, I will thank you forever!

Psalm 30 (Complete Jewish Bible translation)

Priceless Story about Preemie Twins

Join me over at MBCPathway – an article I wrote is front page today! This is a priceless (pun intended) story about how God miraculously saved the life of twin boys born at 27 weeks over 20 years ago and how He is using those boys and their parents to impact lives today.


Priceless: Decades after decision to save premature twins, Marrs family advocates for life

What’s in a Name? Faith…Literally

Britney Hamm pregnant faith
On vacation in Tacoma, WA just a week after our ultrasound.

We were 20 weeks pregnant with our fourth baby. This was the momentous ultrasound, the moment we’d been waiting for, when we’d find out if our son would get his wish for a baby brother or if we would welcome a third beautiful baby girl into this world.

With nervous anticipation, we sat in the waiting room, the pounding of the machinery renovating the building doing little to calm our jitters.

Finally, the ultrasound tech called our name. I settled onto the exam table, my husband next to me holding my hand in the dark room. The sonographer smeared the cool jelly on my bulging belly. Black and white images appeared on the screen in front of us as she moved the wand over my stomach, naming and measuring body parts. The moment of truth…

“Those are definitely girl parts,” the sonographer said confidently, circling the telling part of the image on the screen.

After confirming her surety about seven times, a burst of love filled my heart. Another girl. Our son would be devastated. I had no idea how room arrangements would work in our 3-bedroom house with three girls once the baby outgrew the nursery. But we were having another precious little bundle of pink. How could I not rejoice?

My doctor entered the room. She and the sonographer studied something on the screen, discussing it quietly. “Your placenta is partially covering your cervix,” my doctor explained, pointing to the grey image. “It’s called placenta previa.”

I’d heard of that. I knew enough to know it wasn’t good. “You’ll need to take it easy,” she continued. “Nothing more strenuous than normal walking.” If it hadn’t moved by 28 weeks, we could face the risk of bleeding, early labor, and a C-section as early as 34 weeks depending on the health of the baby.

She assured us that there was a good chance the placenta would move; we just needed to be cautious just in case.

“Stay off Google,” she said before she left the room.

I’d had three textbook pregnancies and deliveries thus far. Pregnancy was my friend (mostly). Even before this news, I’d been fighting a little voice saying, “When is it my turn? When will my luck run out?” Sometimes I felt like I’d dodged a bullet – three times – but one would hit me eventually (I recognize the theological flaws with those statements; they floated into my head nonetheless).

With each pregnancy, my sense of realism increased. I was well aware that things can happen, things do happen, and things could happen to me. My best friend is a NICU nurse. We also personally knew families who had lost an infant or child. Child loss was not a distant reality; we weren’t so naïve to think it couldn’t happen to us.

Chances meant nothing to me. None of us know if we are the 99% or the 1% until it happens. Statistics don’t provide true reassurance. We would have to put our trust in something greater.

My husband and I decided that her middle name would be “Faith.” We needed faith to believe the placenta would move. And we needed faith in the goodness of God no matter what happened. Our prayer was that God would build our faith through this, and that whether we birthed a healthy baby at full term or joined the ranks of those who have lost a child, or anything in between – we would have faith in Him and worship him.

baby girl hamm born
Baby Hamm #4 arrived at 11:45am on 1/21/19 after 2.5 hours of labor!

Seven weeks later, the follow-up ultrasound revealed that my placenta had moved clear out of the way! Baby girl was  healthy. We could proceed forward with a normal delivery.

I didn’t realize then, nor did I realize for months later, that the entire trial with the placenta previa was for one thing: so that we would choose that middle name as we prayed for the faith to respond in worship to whatever may come. Faith was the point. Literally.

We thought we were asking for faith to respond in worship to a C-section. Bleeding during pregnancy. An early delivery. Bed rest. Post-labor hemorrhaging. Even child loss.

Instead, God was preparing us to respond in faith-filled worship to things we didn’t see coming. He, in His faithfulness was tuning our hearts to sing His praise even if.

Even if my friend’s baby passed away hours after birth just a month after our baby was born.

Even if I had breast cancer (I didn’t, but it took three ultrasounds and a mammogram to be sure).

Even if my dad didn’t survive a severe hemorrhagic stroke (he did, but it was life-altering nonetheless).

Even if my dad never gets out of the wheelchair.

Even if the fabric of my family of origin unraveled.

Even if the marriage of someone close to me fell apart.


That’s just scratching the surface of the things that transpired in the months following her birth.


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)


When we chose her name, we didn’t see how the story would turn out. But we chose faith.


We don’t see the complete healing for my dad’s body.

We don’t see the reconciliation for the marriage of someone close to me.

We don’t see the restoration of all that has been broken in the last year.

We don’t see the resurrection of my friend’s baby.


…In this life.

But we choose faith.

Faith that God is good. Faith that healing, reconciliation, restoration, and resurrection WILL come to pass in the next life. Faith that God is at work. Faith that God is providing what we need to endure the challenges set before us today. Faith that God will provide what we need for the challenges we will encounter tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

Baby Hamm #4 One Year OldToday, my sweet baby girl turns one year old. When I look at her in all her cheeky, chunky sweetness, with her toothy grin and her bright blue eyes, I am reminded of her name. Of why we chose her name. Of how God’s faithfulness is wrapped up in this little ball of joy. Of how we had no idea we would need such a tangible reminder to have faith, but He did.

What’s in a name? Sometimes, literally, it’s faith.


Happy birthday, sweet baby girl. May you always have faith in the goodness of God, and may your life be a beacon for others to see Jesus and respond in faith.


Clinging to Jesus in the Labor of Life

(If you don’t like birth stories, you can skip down to the heading below)

March 19, 2011:

Britney Lyn Hamm New Mom5:15am: I wake up in pain, breath-stopping pain. This isn’t like all the trial runs. This is the real deal.

9:00am: We check into the triage room at the hospital. “Five centimeters,” they say. “FIVE?” I ask. “Only FIVE?” It hurts this bad and we’re only halfway there? 

For the next several hours, I labor. The back pain is mind boggling. “I can’t do this,” I say to my husband with each contraction. “I need something to help it,” I say, desperately resigned. I’m only at a 6…only a 7…only an 8. “Just get through this contraction,” he says each time. I get through that contraction. Then another, then another.

1:45pm: Transition hits. If I thought I was in pain before, I had it all wrong. Now it’s too late for the epidural, even if I wanted it.

2:15pm: Time to push. They aren’t kidding when they say “ring of fire.”

3:03pm: A.N. Hamm is born, and all the pain slips away. “You did it, Babe!” he says, excitement bright in his eyes. Yes, Love, we did it.


April 24, 2013 – Due Date

Britney Lyn Hamm new baby 28:00am: I think I might be pregnant forever.

12:00pm: I meet with a college girl for discipleship. Contractions begin. She’s none the wiser.

1:00pm: She leaves. I tell my husband this is it, but to carry on his meeting in the living room while I labor in the bedroom. I’ll let him know when I need him.

1:45pm: Just kidding. Meeting over. The episode of Psych is not an adequate distraction. I can’t do this alone anymore.

2:30pm: We check into triage. “Six,” they proclaim. “SIX?” I return. “I’m only a SIX?” This labor is moving fast, they assure me. The intensity matches the speed.

Yet again, I say to my husband, “I can’t do this; I want something for the pain,” each time a contraction peaks. “No, you don’t,” he assures. “Just get through this contraction.” And then another, and another.

The room is a flurry with activity, much different than the quiet hours of labor in the room before our firstborn’s birth. This baby is coming like a train.

5:05pm: E.J. Hamm is born, and all the pain slips away. “You did it, Babe!” he says, excitement bright in his eyes. Yes, Love, we did it.


April 27, 2016

11:45pm: A contraction hits. I shouldn’t be scared, but I am. I know that this will hurt. That ring of fire ain’t no joke, and I know that now.

April 28, 2016

Britney Lyn Hamm new baby 32:30am: We head for the hospital. It’s a busy night. We’re waiting in triage for a room, but this baby is coming fast. And if I thought the previous two were intense, I hadn’t seen intense yet.

“I can’t do it!” I say, “The pain is too much!” “Just get through this one,” he keeps saying. I lock my eyes on the deep blue of his where I find nothing but a love as intense as the pain coursing through my body, and I get through it.

4:30am: We get settled in a room – and not a moment too soon!

4:45am: With one swift push, A.G. Hamm is born, and all the pain slips away. “The baby’s out?” I exclaim in surprise. “You did it, Babe!” he says, excitement bright in his eyes. Yes, Love, we did it.


The Labor of Life

All three of our kids just had birthdays in the last six weeks, plus I’ve been hooked on Call the Midwife, so the labor of childbirth is present on my mind.

Today, as I washed dishes after returning from the library with my eldest daughter, I reflected on the day. And it struck me that parenting – really, all of life – is a lot like labor.

Today was an incredibly hard day, involving a sick toddler who spent most of the day (and last night) screaming.  Like the contractions of labor, I thought each time she let out another blood-curdling scream, I can’t make it through this. I could not see an end in sight to the screaming and the sleeplessness and the feeling of total helplessness.

Before dinner, as I bounced the finally calmish toddler on my hip, I kissed her and said, “We made it.” As I washed dishes two hours later with a finally quiet house, I breathed a sigh of relief. We made it. The pain of the day slipped away with my precious ones on their way to dreamy land, and I felt one more little brick of character and faith had been laid in my heart.

How much of life is like that? How often do we look at the clock and think, “How will I make it to 5 o’clock? To next month? To next year?” Whether it’s the unrelenting demands of a boss at work, the insurmountable pain of a lonely marriage, the sheer exhaustion of caring for and raising children, the repeated disappointment of a negative pregnancy test, the overwhelming flood of grief over a lost loved one, or something else, life is full of contractions. Ripples of pain and suffering we aren’t sure we’ll get through, big or little.

You know what’s amazing, though? We get through it. We survive. We come out on the other side, and by God’s grace, sometimes we even come out stronger.

With childbirth, we get through it because we don’t have a choice. Our bodies WILL birth that baby. There’s no stopping it. The only choice we have is how we endure it, not if we endure it. But even that is not the measure of strength. Some people think I’m extra strong because I birthed three children naturally, with no pain relief (on purpose). I don’t think that’s strength – I think it’s madness. I think any woman can do that, because a century ago we didn’t have a choice.

Life is a lot like that, too. Sometimes we get through it- whatever it is for you – because we have to – there’s no other way but forward. Sometimes we get through it because we’re pursuing a higher goal or aim that makes the pain and struggle worth it in the end. Sometimes we get through it because of convictions we can’t compromise.

The Source of True Strength

Let me be honest, here – my husband is the real rock star of our labors. I genuinely believe that without his gentle but firm reassurance, I would have gotten an epidural all three times. That’s not to say that would have been weakness, because it’s not – it’s simply not what I wanted. He brought out of me what I couldn’t bring out of myself. With each contraction, with each lock of his eyes on mine, he reminded me of where true strength lies: not in overcoming it all in one fell swoop, but in persevering and sustaining through one contraction at a time.

Faith is a lot like that, too. The good news is that we don’t have to get through it alone. God does not remove the pain in one fell swoop, at least not usually. We have to get through it one way or another. But He’s there with us, with mercies anew every moment. He grips our hand and lets us squeeze the heck out of it. He locks our eyes on His, where we see nothing but a love so intense it endured the greatest pain for our sake, and He says, “Just get through this moment.”

God doesn’t promise us enough strength for the next day, or even the next minute. He promises us enough strength for right now. As we get through each moment, holding His hand, watching His eyes, listening to His words of reassurance, we find that we get through it, and some prize awaits us on the other side. Maybe it’s not a precious new life ushered into the world. Maybe it’s just one building block in our faith as we see one more tick on the wall as evidence of His faithfulness. Maybe it’s just one building block of character in our hearts as He weeds out something that needn’t be there to replace it with a deeper faith in Him. Maybe it’s just knowing that this time we were a little bit calmer and quieter than before because we trusted more deeply that He would carry us through.

I didn’t get through today gracefully. I didn’t get through it with utter calm. I didn’t get through it with perfect faith. But perhaps strength isn’t found in what we endure, or how much we endure, or how quietly we endure it, but in how tightly we cling, moment by moment, to the One who holds our hand. And let me tell you, today I clung.