…Accepting pain. Even embracing it…
For me, pregnancy brought on this concept, and it keeps coming to my mind over the last several months over and over again. First trimester nauseousness, puking, and stretching aches. Second trimester pregnancy gingivitis, arms falling asleep at night, burping (my poor husband!), and heartburn. Third trimester hugeness, discomfort, back pain, nauseousness, and puking again. Things I wouldn’t normally choose to experience.
Our culture often tends to give us a message that pain isn’t a good thing. While as a culture we want a good end result, at the same time the culture subtly encourages the easier path. In college I was surprised at how many professors made their classes as easy as possible it seemed and had a your-life-is-so-hard attitude, “I’ll give you an easy grade.” Responsibility is slowly pushed to a later age. Responsibility and adulthood by 18?! Twenty-five is the new age to start thinking about those things. Marriages fall apart as we aren’t encouraged to fight for them or stay committed to them, and instead casually pass around negative marriage jokes or views of the opposite sex. Just have fun, enjoy yourself, give yourself a break, pamper yourself are things we often hear. Not that those things are necessarily bad, but messages like these are creating a world of people who are learning to only think about themselves and what’s best for them: steer clear of the stuff that I don’t like; do the stuff that has to do with my dreams.
Our natural response doesn’t help too much either. It’s hard to go through painful things. Our natural response to pain or discomfort is usually avoidance…or getting by with as little as possible! We all know what it’s like to put off a little exercise till the infamous tomorrow, evade contact with someone who has hurt us, or close up in a relationship instead of working through the problem. We’ve all done it. We all have things we don’t like to do, whether they be physical, work related, spiritual, or relational. And while many of us are good at accepting certain kinds of pains – like not eating that delectable piece of red velvet chocolate cake to shake those sugar cravings, spending 20 minutes exercising for more energy and a healthier body, eating those greens on your plate to be a good example to the little munchkins at your dinner table, or cleaning out your car before it explodes with the junk you’ve let pile up, simultaneously we have expertly learned how to shirk others – the hardest ones for us, the deepest hurts, the most difficult challenges in life for us to hang on through. It’s just easier not to embrace them.
As a Christian, I am to have a completely opposite view of pain. Not that I should start inflicting as much pain as possible on myself, but that as a believer, my God’s perspective on the hard stuff of life is completely different than the world’s or my natural response to it. God says, “And we know that God causes everything (including the discomforts) to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28).” He also says, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world (1 Peter 1:6-7).” “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).” “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).” Problems, troubles, and trials are meant for good in our lives, to build us stronger in our faith, stronger in our character, stronger in our endurance, stronger in our hope in Christ.
In my pregnancy, I can complain of all the aches and pains, or I can choose to accept them and let them make me stronger in the Lord by being able to still smile, love, and be there for others even when my body tells me to only think about myself. In labor, I’m amazed at how birth experts will tell you that the best response you could have to labor’s intensity is to be calm, release fear, and accept the pain. In the early stages of motherhood, interrupted nights and little sleep can be received with a gentle acceptance (millions of mothers have survived!) and choosing to live in the joy of having a precious bundle to care for. And I want that. When God puts difficult things in my life, things sometimes I don’t even have the ability to choose, I want to take the strength of God to choose the hard way. Because in the end, being a free person on the inside (not being held back by my avoidance of things I don’t like, my own way, or getting hardened from life’s pains) and ultimately being made more like the Jesus who laid down his life unreservedly for the world is what I want.
Pain. The hard stuff of life. Embrace it. It’s going to make you stronger.
*Please comment below ways pain (or the culture’s view on pain) has affected your own life. How have you let pain make you stronger?