The instructor is yelling, “ten more,” but your arms are done…You were planning on running two miles, but a half mile in, your shins start screaming…You hear the cue to add more resistance to the bike, but your legs just don’t have any more to give.
What do you do when it hurts?
The rule of thumb in exercise is, generally, if it actually hurts, if you are physically in excruciating pain, stop before injury. But, what about all the hurt that happens that can’t be classified in that way? What about when the exercise is killing you, to the point where you feel you have nothing left to give, but, you aren’t actually causing injury? You are just working hard. You are actually growing in your endurance, strength, and aerobic capacity?
What do you do when it hurts? Do you stop? Do you quit? Do you give up?
Many do. Why put yourself through that pain? But, is that really what is best?
I love the Olympics. I am amazed by the participants. Watching the gymnasts, swimmers, divers, runners, rowers, and athletic powerhouses in every category of competition is impressive. It’s thrilling to see them make it to this moment and, in many cases, to watch them win.
But, I wonder. Could they have ever made it to that medal stand without pain? If they had trained “hurt free” for decades, would they have ever had the opportunity to compete for gold? How many times did those gymnasts fall from the uneven bars? How many years did those swimmers’ arms’ ache after nine hours of training in the pool? How many missed twists off the 10 meter caused a sting to the diver’s body? How many times have these athletes been treated for torn ligaments, strained muscles, or even broken bones? How many times has it hurt SO bad that they questioned whether or not they should continue?
My thought for the day is that working out, if done well, is not pain free. If you want to succeed as an athlete. There will be pain.
Same with life. Somewhere, somehow, we got the impression that because we are Americans life will be pain free. As Christians we take that one step further, believing that because we have God on our side we are even more immunized from hurt. If it makes you say “ouch” we quickly search for an escape. We assume we should be able to get away because, surely, that’s not what God has for us. We “claim” the Bible verses that speak to God’s protection as our shields against enduring hardships. We ignore the verses that promise things like, “we will be persecuted” (John 15:18-21) or you, “will have trouble” (John 16:33). Even the oft-quoted 23rd Psalm mentions going through the “valley of the shadow of death.”
What we miss is that the promise is that God is with us through the hurt. It is not that life will be pain free. The promise is that He will never leave us, nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) That he will be with us as we walk through that dark, dark valley. (Psalm 23:4) The promise is that we have no reason to fear because we know God is in control.
The hard truth is: love hurts. It’s painful, stretching, and just plain hard. We live in a sin-scarred world filled with broken people. It is impossible to make it through life here on earth unscarred.
So, what do you do when you are in pain? How do you get an ice pack for the injuries incurred while just trying to survive?
When your spouse is unfaithful, your career is crumbling, or your savings account is empty and the creditors are calling, how can you cope? When your child is sick, your closest friend betrays you, or your dreams are shattered, what can you do? How can you keep going and keep loving, when your mind is consumed by pain, when your thoughts torture you with how hard it is, and when your heart aches because of how badly it’s been trampled?
How do you cope when the pain is so bad you feel as if you can’t take it anymore?
The first is that Jesus knows. There is nothing that has, is, or can ever happen to you that Jesus does not know about. He’s not surprised or shocked that you have lost your job, or that your marriage is crumbling. He sees. He knows.
The second, which must go hand in hand with the first, is that he also cares. Jesus cares. He loves you. He knows what is happening and, though you may not feel it in the way you would like to, He loves you more than you can comprehend.
The final point, as applied to this post, is that Jesus has hurt for us, more than we can ever or will ever hurt. He faced the cross and a pain that none of us will ever have to face. When you compare the hurt of the cross and of bearing all of our sins (though he was sinless) to the pain you are currently facing, there is no comparison. That is not to diminish our present suffering in anyway. But, instead, to offer encouragement that the cross gives us hope of a future relief, and shows us a model for sacrificial love and endurance like no other.
He knows. He cares. We can trust Him and He is able. He can calm a storm with one word. He can handle what you are going through. We have to trust. We have to “get” how much he loves us in order to not run from the pain, but in order to endure. Just like an Olympic athlete, we have to know that this painful training will be worked out for our good, and His glory.
And, though it’s almost trite to tell someone that they will be stronger after surviving their storm, it is certainly a truth. In life, as in sport. What doesn’t kill you, does make you stronger (thanks Kelly Clarkson). Data shows that marriages on the brink of divorce, that can endure, are happier and stronger just five years down the road. How many lost jobs have been a catalyst for great entrepreneurs to go for it?
One final thought, from the song, Blessings by Laura Story. I hope you’ll watch the video, here, if you aren’t familiar with the song.
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
But, my favorite part of this song, is the conclusion.
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise