November 23, 2007
Getting Stronger Can Be Painful
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
A month into my newly-begun exercise program I wanted to quit. It’s probably because I’m the least athletic person I know. I’ve also been told I run worse than a girl and I’m pretty sure I flunked the President’s Physical Fitness test in grade school.
However, since I know in my head that exercise is the only path to getting stronger, I ignored my body’s protests and pressed on. But each week I discovered a new pain somewhere in my body … my shins, knees and arms all groaned with the discomfort of being awoken from their sedentary state.
During one grueling exercise class, the instructor had us do a lower back exercise. At the first twinge of pain, I stopped. I knew that some pain could be dangerous and didn’t want to continue something that could be damaging to my back. Watching me stop, the instructor stooped down to my level with a questioning look on his face. “It hurts,” I explained.
“I know,” he answered. “This exercise is going to strengthen your back. Stop when you need to rest, but try it again. And each time, hold it just a little bit longer.”
My first instinct was to stop at the painful feeling. I know pain is one of God’s warning signals to protect us, and my self-protection instinct was fully engaged. However, in order to get stronger, I had to experience the pain.
Pain seems to be a common side effect any time we try to strengthen an area of our lives. Whether it’s trying again after a discouragement, loving after heartache, or forcing ourselves to organize our kitchen when we’d rather be watching a movie, life can be painful.
I’m sorry to admit that my instinct to avoid pain or discomfort has often kept me from achieving goals in my life. Part of this is because it’s difficult to differentiate the pain that we should avoid, like getting burned from touching a stove, and the kind of pain that makes us stronger. Pain just seems like pain – something to run from.
But some pain is actually good for us. One thing that has helped me determine when pain is helpful, is to look at the end result. Hebrews 12:11 tells of the promise of the pain of discipline: “a harvest of righteousness and peace.”
This “Big Picture” approach has helped me push through many painful experiences in my life. As a follower of Jesus, my life doesn’t hold the promise of ease. In fact, it can contain quite the opposite. Much of what God asks me to do pushes me past my comfort zone. And yet His promise of “a harvest of righteousness” is worth any discomfort.
So I guess I’ll keep exercising, and look at my pain as a path to strength. As I do so, I’ll thank God for the promise of a healthy end-result – in all areas of my life.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me enough to provide discipline in my life. Help me to see which pain means to stop, and which pain is necessary for my health. I want to be stronger in all areas of my life so that I can serve You more fully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Note from the author: Pain is God’s warning signal. If you experience any persistent physical pain, please seek professional help.
Six Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer
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A Practical Guide for Women Who Want to Work from Home
by Glynnis Whitwer
Identify one area of your life that needs to be strengthened. What is one painful (yet healthy) thing you can do this week to strengthen that area?
What discipline did you resent at one time, but appreciate now?
Read James 1:2-4 (see below). What should be our attitude when facing difficult challenges?
What can help you persevere through some painful experiences in your life?
Hebrews 12:10, “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (NIV)
James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)
Romans 5:3-4, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (NIV)
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