Embracing Pain

Time Stamp: This post was written during the WA state stay-at-home order in effect from COVID-19.

I was out on a run the other day when my watch started alerting me of incoming text messages. When I got back home, I saw that all of them were from my brother Jeremy. With the gyms all closed, he had to switch up the way he was exercising, and did a video workout using nothing but body weight exercises. It sounded like a doozy. The proceeding text messages were pretty comical. He really enjoyed the workout, but noted he was having to prop his elbow up on the table in order to lift his hand high enough to drink a glass of water. Hilarious. I’ve been there.

I told him that my workout for the day consisted of a 10 mile run. His immediate response was “I will never run 10 miles at once ever again in my lifetime. I’m fine with that. Good on ya.” He’s an Army vet, so he’s no stranger to running. Incidentally, that might be why he doesn’t care for it.

After another exchange, he texted, “I’ll live vicariously through you whenever I’m wanting more pain in my life.” At this point, I usually respond with sarcasm in an effort to be funny. I started texting with that intention, but before I could do anything about it, the text took a drastic turn.

“I have to have to have pain in my life. And I have to go past the pain and find success. If I don’t, I’ll never parent my son well.”

Whoa, wait… what? Where in the world did that come from? And why did the act of simply typing that out cause the tears to flow? What the heck just happened?

The Examination

Jamie and I have been seeing a counselor for a while now, and it has been really, really good. Our counselor focuses on emotion focused therapy, so when the tears started to flow while texting my brother, I had to stop and figure out what was happening. What was causing such deep emotion to come out? If I struck a nerve so deep in my own self, there must be some serious truth to what I intended to be funny.

At first, I was hung up on just that. It must be true if it invoked that much emotion. Then my thoughts started to wander. As a Christian, I began to balance my own thoughts with what I know to be true about God, His scripture, and how much that scripture is about pain and suffering from cover to cover. I began to question the validity of purposely putting pain in my life. It was as if I wanted to be the gatekeeper of how and when the trials would mold and shape me. I felt a little convicted about doing it on my terms, and not letting God direct my path.

It just so happens that we had a Zoom conference with our counselor the very next morning. At the end of the session, I told her about what had happened. Throughout the conversation, we talked about the health of pushing ourselves to become better humans. Whether it be physical, professional, relational, or whatever, the act of challenging ourselves through difficult circumstances can bring about a ton of growth. We also talked about not losing sight of the path God has set before us and being flexible and willing to embrace His challenges for us, considering he knows us better than we know ourselves.

The Result

Every single one of us are on the brink of (or already in the thick of) some pretty big trials brought on by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of that, I’m thankful that I’ve been pushing myself beyond what’s comfortable to endure challenges. It can be said that nothing could have prepared us for this mess. I’d like to think that even a little preparation is better than nothing.

I don’t have to convince any of you that the best growth comes from being stretched – no pain, no gain sort of thing. We can all look back on the hardest seasons of our life and see how they changed us for the better, and how those seasons were inevitable blessings. When we fall back on those scriptures that address fear and encourage reliance on God, we make it through the hard times while constantly being on the lookout for the good that will come.

So with that, what do we do about today? It seems many of us are walking through that door as we speak. It might be your career. It might be a new diagnosis. It might be a perfect storm of multiple events. At the end of the day, though, we have a choice. We can buckle under the pressure, resulting in a breakdown in many areas of our lives. Or we can stand tall, and embrace adversity as an opportunity for growth and good change.

While this post is meant to encourage, I have to say that I’m preaching to myself. Both in business and in parenting an autistic child, I’ve buckled under the pressure and failed. I don’t want to do that ever again. I’m choosing to stand tall this time around, and embrace this season that will likely change the face of our planet. I’m choosing to trust God – that His plan is better than mine. Will you join me?