Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pain Benefit

Have you ever considered the benefits of pain?  We can all readily see the downside.  It hurts.  In an earlier post about Discipline, I quoted a favorite saying of body builders - Pain is just weakness leaving the body.  That's a clever way of saying - You're getting stronger by putting yourself through this misery.  And believe me, every time I step on a treadmill, it's misery for me.  I don't 'run for fun', as you may hear some people say.  However, when I get finished - especially if I lasted the whole 2 miles - I am glad.  Not just glad that it's over, but glad for my accomplishment.  
I stuck it out.  I endured.  
I got a little stronger.  
I got a benefit from pain.  

Without pain, you wouldn't even survive life.  One of the reasons dentists tell you not to eat anything after having dental work that required anesthesia is because you might chew your tongue off without realizing it.  That picture is an actual x-ray of my hand taken just yesterday.  If you click on it, you may be able to make out one of the two breaks at the base of the index finger.  If I didn't experience pain, I would have kept playing (as I tried to do) and possibly lost total use of that finger.  Pain protects you.  

The challenge for us is to take those things we view as painful and use them for good.  From a physical perspective, I won't play tennis on a court that has leaves on it again.  That's a self-inflicted pain that I want to avoid.  But more importantly, there are spiritual. intellectual and emotional Opportunities we encounter every day that extend to us the invitation to grow.  

Will we rail against God or Fate for our sorry lot in life?
Or will we take full advantage of the Pain Benefit?


  1. The old adage "that which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" is, in my opinion, inaccurate.

    I would argue that a more correct statement would be "that which doesn't kill you, HAS THE POTENTIAL to make you stronger, but only if you respond in a manner which allows it to do so."

    You don't automatically become Superman because you got laid off from your job. You don't magically become Mr Perfect because you broke your ankle. You don't mysteriously become a better man just because you lost someone close to you.

    Like you said, we have to initiate this growth. We have to make the lemonade. We have to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and determine to find some positive in this negative situation.

    That's the mindset I've always had. "This situation sucks, and I'd really rather not be in it, but at the least I can look for something good to take away from this".

    I mean look at the alternative: you go through a painful situation and come out of it having gained NOTHING? No knowledge? No wisdom? No understanding? No testimony? No improved relationships? No deeper reliance on God? NOTHING? Your suffering was effectively worthless??

    Thanks, but I want no part of that. I will always look for something positive to take away from any crappy situation that I find myself caught in. I will not suffer for nothing.

  2. I agree, Steve. We need to cooperate with the process. We need to really examine how to get the most out of the experience, while understanding that we're probably not going to find the process pleasant.

    Going in with the mindset that it's not going to be easy, then extracting all the good we can (read: learn, endure, persevere, pray, do the right thing, don't do the wrong thing, don't short-circuit the process, etc.) will enable us to 'redeem' the whole issue, and mature in the process.

    I like your resolve to do just that.

  3. We spoke about this very subject in our life group last sunday. I know you guys weren't there, so let me quote a few verses. Romans 5:3-4 says: "...we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope"

    Now I don't know anyone who wishes tribulation upon themselves, but by the same token...who among us does not desire a greater portion of perseverance, proven character, and hope?? Sign me up!

  4. Yep, unfortunately there's only one way to get it, and it ain't easy. And we don't have to invite tribulation, it will just barge right in all on its own. Related: see James 1:2-4 and Hebrews 12:11

  5. I like this...it's tough, but it's like the discipline post earlier.

    On a similar note (at least it connected in my mind) I was reading a different post about how we've (read: the generation before mine) screwed up the "Occupy Wall Street" generation was pointing out how over-praising kids and the self-esteem and "everyone's a winner" mindsets have a tendency to ironically backfire.

    Instead of really building up strong kids who mature into healthy adults, they can almost emotionally pad them into becoming wimpy and unable to grow. Sure there's a balance or a right mix to find (you can't berate kids and expect that to help them grow). But like you said, without some pain, we're never really inclined to grow, to move, to press on. If everything's comfortable, we'll just sit there and lounge around. If a student has been over-praised and then fails something, a lot of times they decide to never do something they might fail again, and thus stunt their growth as a person. And if we have been self-esteem coddled and run into someone who doesn't make us feel awesome, we may just decide to write off valuable criticisms and work our way towards becoming a main character on Jersey Shore...and no one wants that (except the people who are too deluded to realize they are like that!)

    Yes pain, emotional, physical, spiritual, etc. can be a good thing, is designed (a lot of times) to be a good thing, and even when it's not good God has a funny way of redeeming it if we work with Him and allow him to!

  6. Good points Micah. The problem with self-esteem is that we can 'esteem' ourselves to be more than we are. A better term is self-value. We, and our kids, have true value. And that shows itself a number of ways - through our contributions to the family, school, church, neighborhood, etc. Building real value, as opposed to esteem, many times requires some level of 'pain' or discomfort due to the fact that we have to sacrifice our wants and needs for another. We can see that. Esteem is a mirage many times.