A few times a year Shannon goes to writing conferences. She comes back energized, excited, and totally fried. To give herself room for reflection she asked me to write a guest post. The parameters were simple: Write something different than Shannon would write and that is encouraging for the people who read this.
A few weeks ago I was running my first triathlon. On the course, an experienced racer looked me in the eye and said, "Don't quit. Where there is pain, there is power."
He ran smoothly past while I thumped along pondering that statement. Was it true?
After I processed it through the lens of Scripture I thought of Romans 5. "Not only that, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope."
Whether pain becomes power is entirely up to you.
God lays out a framework for how to transform pain into power. The trick is, you have to follow the plan.
Suffering Produces Perseverance
Everybody experiences pain. This is a simple fact.
Pain is unavoidable, but perseverance is a choice.
When you hurt, do you stop?
It's incredible what God can do through you if you're willing to hurt a little bit. Try it. Go do something that makes you physically or mentally uncomfortable.
There are loads of definitions of character, but let's go with simply "It's who you are."
The problem is, most of us are deeply inconsistent.
"Are you kind? Usually."
"Are you patient? Sometimes."
The good thing is God doesn't simply reveal weak character and leave it at that. "Mr. Cook, we got your integrity scan back. It says here you suck. Have a great day."
Instead, he improves us.
Scripture points to another "Character recipe" in I Peter 1:7 that compares the development of our character to purifying gold. Under heat, impurities rise to the top. Likewise, when pressed, our habits and fears rise up (visible to us or more likely the people who love us). Again there's a choice. Do we reject and replace these things with our true source of hope, or lean into them. When you are in pain, you will lean into something. Is it God, or something else?
And Character, Hope
The last part is the most beautiful. You can follow steps one and two without God. Just be tough and hold to a personal belief. The problem is that hope is only as strong as the thing it stands on. I often want to tell the story, "Yep, Ryan went through a tough time but he got through it with God's help."
That would be like me spouting about how me and Klay Thompson combined for 14 threes the other night. That's technically true, but I was totally irrelevant to the story. The heart of our hope shouldn't be, "We are tough" but rather "God is good, and loves us."
To unleash hope we have to lean into God's goodness, not our circumstance.
Don't Waste It
There's a saying in business that "You never want to waste a crisis." The idea is that when you're in crisis the big stuff is clear, the little is irrelevant, and that makes it a great time to make important changes.
Pain is inevitable, don't waste it.
If we follow the plan, my guy from the course can be right. Where there is pain, there can be power.