Pushing Through the Pain

 

 

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. –Romans 8:37 NIV

My 15-year-old granddaughter Madison loves volleyball. So much so that she spent all summer working to stay in shape for the upcoming season. Good thing, because when volleyball practice started, the sessions were intense and physically demanding.

“It’s a good thing you love the sport,” I told her when she described the grueling (to me anyway) exercises she had to do.

Imagine her disappointment when, after the first match, she sustained an injury to her back. She texted me from the chiropractor’s office: “I’m out for two weeks or longer.”

Then, on top of that, a sinus infection kept her home from school the day of the second match of the season.

But don’t stress, Grandma. Right after the “I’m out” text, she sent me another one: “Never mind. He said if I do special stretches and go to the trainer, I can play.”

She may return to her beloved volleyball on Monday, but her injury, which affects her sciatic nerve—and you know the pain that comes with that—won’t be healed for at least two weeks. But she’s going to play through the pain and sinus infection because she loves the sport with a passion.

Then there’s her older brother, Brent, a senior. He decided last year to go out for football, changing his sport from baseball.

I had my reservations. I know these players take a pounding, and Brent suffered some serious injuries playing baseball, including at least one concussion and a compound fracture of his upper arm.

“I’m going to buy you a big roll of bubble wrap for your birthday,” I told him.

But Brent set his goal to make the team and began a self-imposed program of endurance and strength training. He put on weight and studied the game. And made the team.

He scored the first touchdown of the season for his team (and the first touchdown of his career) in the first game. And the team voted him, a first-year-player, as their captain. (Grandmas are allowed to brag.)

Imagine his frustration (and mine) when, after all that work and all he’d accomplished, after that first game, he ended up with shin splints. And you know how painful those can be. So down to the trainer he goes. But that hasn’t taken him from the game he’s come to love.

“The only way they’re taking me off the field,” he told me, “is on a stretcher.”

Yes, this tangled bundle of bandages and tape came off Brent’s leg after practice.

And so he endures ice baths and miles of ace bandages and tape.

I recognized a familiar disappointment that settled in my heart. My own kids were involved in sports and also suffered pains and sprains, which I felt kept them from performing their best.

But now I look at my grandchildren and their determination and grit, and I realize that no one who truly plays a sport escapes injury. If you give it your all, you’re going to get hurt. It’s just the nature of the game.

And the nature of life itself.

We’re all playing with pain, aren’t we? Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, whether it’s apparent or hidden. We’re the “walking wounded.”

I used to think it was better to back off when pain flared. It’s human to want to avoid pain.

But we can’t live our lives in bubble wrap. Pain, I’ve learned, can develop our character, strengthen us, and drive us to the One who has a plan and purpose for it. Now I’m seeing the importance of pushing through the pain and giving life my all.

Like my grandchildren, we have a choice. We can moan and groan, wallow in self-pity and bewail our luck.

Or we can man up and push on, refusing to be benched—until they take us off the field on a stretcher.

“I have come that they might have life,” Jesus said, “life to the full” (John 10:10).

Are you living life to the full?

Help me to embrace all You send my way, O Lord, even pain, knowing You have a plan and purpose for all You allow in my life. Grant me sustaining grace and a willing spirit. Amen.

Read and meditate on Hebrews 12:1–13

MORE TEA: Some quotes on pain

I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.  ~ Elizabeth Elliot

God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son (see Romans 8:28-29).  ~ Jerry Bridges

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(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

 

Beyond the Loss

 

. . . a crown of beauty instead of ashes . . . –Isaiah 61:3 NIV 

At 8:32 a.m. on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted in a violent blast that blew out the north side of the mountain. Everything within eight miles—man, beast, and vegetation—met with instant death and destruction. Shock waves leveled everything within their path, including centuries-old trees, for another 19 miles. Beyond that, the trees that remained were nothing more than standing matchsticks, seared of leaves and life.

Fifty-seven people lost their lives in what was the most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Miles of roads and railroad tracks were destroyed. Ash spewed 12 miles high, then mushroomed out, eventually dumping an estimated 500 million tons in 11 states and five Canadian provinces.

The blast, and the accompanying earthquake, altered the landscape and forever changed the ecosystem.

In July Dean and I visited the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. We toured the museum, viewed displays and read placards, listened to an energetic ranger give an animated talk, and sat through a jaw-dropping video that captured the lateral blast.

We stood, awestruck, as we gazed at what was once, at 4,400 feet above sea level, the fifth highest peak in the state of Washington.

Today the north face of Mount St. Helens, which lost 1,300 feet in elevation in the blast, is one gigantic crater, the area around it a moonscape, gray and lifeless. Sun-bleached tree trunks are strewn over the ash-dotted hillsides surrounding the volcano.

 

But the place is anything but dead.

Prairie lupine and other wildflowers bob their colorful petals above the green meadow grass. We watched elk graze in the North Fork Toutle River Valley, where patches of trees are making a comeback.

Nothing has been planted, at least not intentionally. After the initial cleanup following the eruption, the area was left to nature. Within a month, avalanche lilies poked their heads through ash deposits 10 miles away.

One of the documentaries we viewed was titled, “Eternal cycle of destruction and renewal.”

“Where humans see catastrophe,” the narrator said, “nature sees opportunity.”

How true. The more I learn about the eruption and how the area is naturally recovering, the more I am in awe of nature—and the One who created it.

Out of destruction came new life—not the same as before, but life nevertheless. Plants grew that couldn’t have thrived in the shadow of the forest. The nutrients in the volcanic ash allowed different species of plants to grow. A new kind of beauty emerged from and because of the ashes.

As I gazed at the prairie lupine in the meadows and the splashes of red, orange, yellow, and white swaying in the summer breeze on nature’s palette, a phrase from Isaiah came to mind: “a crown of beauty for ashes.”

There are times our lives are rocked to the core. Our very foundations are shaken. That with which we’re familiar—comfortingly familiar—is blasted away. A gaping, colorless void replaces the mount where our dreams once reached for the sky.

The landscape of our lives is forever changed. Fallout obscures our vision, clogs our breathing, snuffs out our hopes. We will never be the same.

But all is not lost. For out the ashes will come new life. Out of destruction renewal.

For where we see catastrophe, God sees opportunity—to stretch us, transform us, change our direction, grow our faith, give us a life we could never have imagined before. A life resplendent with new color, new dreams, new hope.

If God so cared about nature that He placed seeds of renewal in what appears to be total destruction, will He not care for you?

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” Jesus says in Matthew 10:29–31. “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows.”

Thank You that what I view as the end is not the end, O Lord, but really a new beginning. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 46

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.