I saw a Facebook post from a friend the other day that said (and I paraphrase here) one will never change until the pain of staying the same becomes unbearable. There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. After all, pain can be a great motivator.
This statement reveals the value of pain. Hurting can either spring us to positive action, to make the changes we need to make. Or it can bury us, if we choose to merely wallow in it.
Then there is the middle ground between the two: the tepid waters of pain avoidance. I think we would all agree that difficult times are not exactly a welcome aspect of life. Many of us invest a great deal of our time in trying to steer clear of the uncomfortable, the unpleasant, the things that hurt. It is often a learned reaction.
One day when I was in kindergarten, my mom was ironing. She told me, very pointedly, do not touch the iron. Stay away from it. It will burn you.
What do you think I did? Yes, curiosity got the best of me. And I ever-so-gently placed my hand on the hot iron.
Mom was right. It burned.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Avoid touching hot irons at all costs. The pain in my hand drove that lesson home. And, to this day, over forty years later, I have never again willingly put my hand on the business side of a hot iron. (Unfortunately the other lesson about listening to your parents didn’t stick so well…)
Granted, this particular lesson could have been learned by simply listening to Mom. But, it’s funny how wisdom has a way of escaping our grasp in the moment.
And there is some pain that is simply unavoidable. The hurt of a loss can be hard to take. But, in all painful circumstances, we can choose one of three reactions:
1. Wallow in pity. Mourn, yes. Don’t deny what you are feeling. But don’t pitch a tent there either. Life goes on – your life goes on. When we choose to let painful hardships roll over us, when we capitulate to the pain, we have in essence given up.
2. Hide in fear. We can choose to run away from the pain. But where is the value in that?
3. Turn the pain around and use it for good. How can we reach someone who is hurting with true empathy if we have never experienced pain? How can we understand what someone is going through if we have never faced difficulties ourselves?
You see, our lives are not about us. We all face pain in varying degrees at different points in our lives. When we choose to be brave, to stand on faith in Christ, to not be defeated, then we “let (our) light shine before others, that they may see (our)good deeds and glorify (our) Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, ESV).
What if Jesus, in the garden, sweating blood and pleading with the Father to “let this cup pass” – knowing full well what He was about to face (the humiliating kangaroo court of the Jews, the brutality of the Romans, the excruciation of scourging and crucifixion…) – had chosen to walk away? What if He had opted to not face the punishment He did not deserve? Now, I do not right this to open up some theological debate about whether Christ could have walked away from Gethsemane. I am simply saying this: consider the ramifications.
Consider the outcome.
When we are bravely faithful in the face of pain and hardship, we give God the glory. When others see what we face and say, “How did he survive?” or “Where does she get such strength?”, we have an open door to glorify God.
The best things in life come when we are faithfully brave. Whatever you are facing today, stay strong in Christ. Seek Him first. Wait for the Lord. Don’t just put on a brave face – be honestly, faithfully brave! If you are hurting, let people see you are hurting. But let them also see you know that God will use this bad situation for something good.
Because He will.
Because He already is.
You have the opportunity to use your difficulties to bring someone hope. You survived this – they will too. God never left you – He won’t leave them either. Pain gives us empathy. And empathy leads to understanding, which puts a finer point on the love we show others.
Remember… the light of Christ that you emit may the light someone else sees at the end of a long, dark tunnel.