by Joanie Butman
Learning to appreciate the blessing of pain is a lofty ambition, not easily achieved because our base instinct is to avoid it at all costs. However, the purpose of some pain is to alert us to danger and/or to avoid harm. It's the body's first line of defense, and ignoring it can prove costly. That’s how I ended up with a volleyball-sized tumor in my gut. I disregarded my body’s screams to seek medical attention until I found myself in a critical state.
My present example is inconsequential but a good illustration of my tendency to wait until the pain is such that it affects my ability to function – like breathing in the tumor incident. My latest injury was self-inflicted – a familiar scenario in my life physically and spiritually. As with many of my DIY projects, whatever I save monetarily by doing it myself gets spent on fixing my mistakes (mostly haircuts), or on doctors to heal something I injured in the process. This particular project’s victim was my thumb. It sounds silly, but you don’t realize how often you use your thumb until it’s incapacitated.
Spiritually, my do-it-yourself episodes have had far more serious consequences. In those instances, the ensuing pain was God's correction tool. As such, it was instrumental in drawing me closer to Him and teaching me (the hard way) that the Father DOES indeed know best. Any limitations He’s put on me are for my own protection and benefit.
The severity of my current situation reached a climax when I attempted to pull up my Spanx while dressing for a recent wedding. Getting into Spanx isn’t pretty under normal circumstances. Trying to do it one-handed resembles something Houdini might attempt. Up until that point I was perfectly content waiting for my thumb issue to resolve itself – as if that strategy has ever actually worked. I eventually managed to wrestle them on (and off) but knew the time had come to seek professional help. One painful shot of cortisone, and I was on the mend. So why did I wait so long? Good question.
The diagnosis was trigger finger, “a painful condition that causes the fingers or thumb to catch or lock.” I hope I haven’t reached that age when people bore you with details of their various ailments. Nevertheless, I use this particular malady as an analogy for my more serious issue of being spiritually ‘stuck’ – an ailment probably more prevalent than trigger finger. It’s equally painful but with no quick fix. I wish the remedy was as easy as a cortisone shot directly into my soul to reduce the swelling of pride and selfishness. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Both conditions bring to mind the famous quote “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” The original author is unknown, but his or her name isn’t nearly as important as the wisdom of this universal truth – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Therein lies the blessing of pain. It gets our attention and demands action. You can only ignore it so long, though some people have a higher threshold of pain than others. Perhaps they have a vested interest in choosing to wallow in their current condition or maybe they fear the diagnosis. It’s difficult to face the truth sometimes. Or perhaps the cost of change seems too high. We all have our own justifications for avoiding change.
Just like I finally chose to seek professional help for my thumb, spiritual healing and change requires a similar choice to seek help from the only One capable of getting anyone ‘unstuck.’ The healing balm of His love has the power to eliminate any inflammation or obstruction preventing us from fully functioning and living the abundant life He desires for everyone. The cure is not as simple or straightforward as an injection. It’s more of an exchange process where we surrender our pain, and God uses it to bless us in some way. Given the opportunity, He can pinpoint the deepest hurt with surgical precision and melt it with His grace.
I don’t think God was particularly concerned with my trigger finger or my inability to don my Spanx, but I know for certain He was waiting patiently for me to choose to seek Him out in regard to being spiritually ‘stuck.‘ I will leave you with some wise advice from Rick Warren:
We have to make intentional choices in order to grow. There is no growth without change, no change without loss, and no loss without pain. If you are going to grow, you will have to change, and change means letting go of some old things in order to grab hold of some new things. It’s like swinging on a trapeze. The trapeze artist swings out on one bar, and then has to reach out and grab the other one. At some point, he’s got to let go of one to grab the other or he’s not going to make it to the other side. If he thinks he can hold on to both, what happens? He gets stuck in the middle, and he’s going down. Some of you are stuck in the middle, and you’re going down because you haven’t let go of the old patterns, the old habits, and the old ways of thinking. The Bible says to throw them off and trust that God is working in you “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Do you have an area in your life in which you need to choose to get 'unstuck'? I recommend consulting with the Great Physician. He record speaks for itself.