Pain is such a great teacher, while all at the same time being that teacher you hate. Too strong of a word? Not really. Who likes pain, even a little bit? Not me. I hate it. BUT it teaches me my most precious life lessons.
I want to talk less about the actual pain itself, and more about the endurance we must find to get through it.
Paul tells us to be content no matter what state we are experiencing. Sounds easy until pain has come to strangle the life out of you. Contentment in pain? Is that a real thing? Can I be content while my soul or body is still writhing in pain? Surprisingly, yes. It is a heart issue. No one can do it for you and maybe not even WITH you. Seems to be one of those solo journeys. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) The stillness is the key. To learn to be still in the midst of unchanging pain, keeps the pain at bay. Being still is contentment and endurance wrapped in a choice. And it is a hard life lesson to just choose to BE.
God always uses everyday normal human experiences to shine forth spiritual truths. I had some pain from an illness recently that was unrelenting. It would literally take my breath away and make me feel like I was going to blow apart. Funny, but I finally thought I should resort to those Lamaze breathing exercises I used to do during childbirth. I thought – hey, it can’t hurt more than it does now! So I reigned myself in and started to breathe slowly and deliberately, with great resolve. The pain did not change, but I changed. My will became greater and my soul took charge of my body. I almost can’t explain; all I know is I became still and I endured the pain. The struggle against pain of any sort makes it so much worse. Someone who is flailing in the water in a panic trying not go under and drown, can survive IF they calm down enough to flip over and float on their back. Sometime life requires us to just float. Just float, and know that I am God. (Revised version)
Endurance means: “to bear, resigned to, patience, tolerance, sufferance, acceptance, the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.” The thing about endurance is that it keeps you focused and keeps you from that suffocating, debilitating panic that pulls you under its power. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Joy is Coming
We all will experience some sort of pain in our life; that is a given. It is in the hardships of this life that we become stronger human beings. It is in the long swims against the current, in the long runs on broken roads, and the long nights of weeping where the best parts of who can be will rise up. Just like butterflies are first worms in a dark cocoon, and diamonds are first clumps of coal in a dark coal mine, so are WE going to be refined into masterpiece human beings from our times spent in the dark classroom of pain. “But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities…” (2 Corinthians 6:4)
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
So let us take a deep breath and just withstand and accept and tolerate whatever it is that has a grip on us. Let us just endure. Let us just be still.