Episode 10: Flourishing in the Pain

February 28, 2018

Life is Hard

Now, it occurs to me that maybe you’re sitting there right now listening to me talk and your life thus far has been nothing but peaches and roses.  Everyone likes you, you’re Daddy left you a trust fund, you have the genetics of a Norse god, and you are always optimistic.

But for all the rest of us, this is a topic we are all interested in.  Life. is. Pain.  It’s not only pain.  But to live, is to at times suffer.

We need to face this up front.  You are not entitled to a life free of hardship.  And it has little to do with what you do or don’t do.  Even if you somehow make all the right moves in life, pain is still coming your way.  You can’t stop it.  Rich people suffer.  Poor people suffer.  Happy people, Sad people.  Introverts, extroverts.  Kids with no daddy, Daddys with no kids.  Smart people, dumb people.  EVERYBODY.

Yet still we tend to compare our hardship with others and grade it.  We have to be careful with that.  Especially if you feel that your suffering in life is greater than everyone else’s.  When you start to belittle someone else’s struggle, by magnifying your own, you are in the beginning stages of developing a victim identity that leads to all sorts of maladies of the soul.

Everyone feels their burden differently.  My child when he was tiny would act utterly broken hearted when he barely skinned his knee.  To him, at that age and level of maturity, it was the end of the world.  Now that same injury is nothing.  We have to be careful how we judge other people’s hardship, and resist the desire to compare.  Comparison is the enemy of faith and the enemy of compassion.

What’s Your Why?

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

What does he mean?  He means that if you know why you are doing what you are doing, you will keep doing it even when it’s hard.  If you know why you get up in the morning, why you exist; if you know your purpose, then when hardship comes you will endure it and not quit.  The “why” gets you through the “how”.

He isn’t saying that if you know why you are suffering, you will be able to endure.  Not the point at all.  We almost never know the answer to why we are suffering.

Hebrews 12:7  “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.”

Discipline is instruction, training, teaching.  It isn’t punishment.

So this tells us a couple things:

1- we can set aside the question of the origin of the hardship, and instead simply choose to receive all hardship as instruction from God.  It emphasizes our attitude in response to the hardship, not where it is coming from, or why it’s happening.  The question of “why is this happening” is always unfruitful.  It’s far better to ask in your heart, “how am I going to respond?”

But be careful.  This does not mean that God is going to keep beating you until moral improves.  He isn’t trying to teach you some moral lesson about tithing or something where once you get the message, He will stop giving you cancer.

2- If we receive hardship as discipline, then discipline is a sign of God’s love and acceptance.  Bad fathers ignore their kids.  Good fathers discipline them.  Having this attitude about enduring hardship as discipline, will lead you into better relationship with God.  When you receive hardship as punishment, or as the randomness of life, then you are in danger of growing bitter and resentful instead.

Comfort in Pain

Finding comfort and healing in the middle of hardship is a topic for another day, BUT I will say this…

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus got sick and die, He went to see them at the grave.  He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, when you saw his friends weeping and mourning.  Jesus wept with them.  He wasn’t weeping over the loss of his friend, He was about to raise him.  No, he was weeping over their weeping.

Remember this when things are hard:  Jesus is acquainted with sorrow.  He knows it better than you, and he weeps alongside you.  Even though He already knows how He will bring you through it.

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