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In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. –Romans 8:37 NIV
When my granddaughter Madison was in high school, she fell in love with volleyball. 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 was allowed to return to her beloved volleyball the following Monday, but her injury, which affected her sciatic nerve—and you know the pain that comes with that—wouldn’t heal completely for at least two weeks. But she played through the pain and sinus infection because she loved the sport with a passion.
Then there was her older brother, Brent, a senior at the time. He decided the previous year to go out for football, changing his sport from baseball.
I had my reservations. I knew these players took a pounding, and Brent had 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 went. But that didn’t take him from the game he loved.
“The only way they’re taking me off the field,” he told me, “is on a stretcher.”
And so he endured 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 when I looked at my grandchildren and their determination and grit, I realized 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.
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