The following is related to an earlier devotional post on “pain”: leaving the comfort zone. If you’re not familiar with this series, you may want to review some of the foundational articles and videos on W.A.I.T. training and specific posts on “pain“.
There are 24 such subjects on this website. You can use the search function to read the devotionals and related Scriptures, view training videos, and even watch contemporary Christian music videos on the same subjects. Simply place your smartphone or tablet on the reading deck of your favorite cardio equipment in the gym, or prop it up in a safe place as you and a friend exercise at home, or even project it onto a smart TV through wifi or bluetooth for larger groups.
I offer the applications below and others only as examples of how you might physically express spiritual principles. They are not magical formulas or guarantees. Neither are they substitutes for God’s call to gather with other believers for worship in a local church, to study His Word and pray privately, to fellowship with other Christians throughout the week, or to serve the hurting and lost.
In the metaphor of physical fitness, consider this series as a “supplement” for your spiritual health. I do believe, however, that these articles and related video which simultaneously feed our spiritual, physical, and relational health can be very practical. After all, the Lord created each of us as a body with a spirit for relationships. And remember, always consult a physician before beginning any new exercise program.
Suggested applications for meditation on “pain”:
When we think of God as a type of ‘Super Wal-Mart’ to give us whatever we want whenever we want it, it doesn’t seem godly to push for pain in our body or in our others’. Yet, His love requires the members of Christ’s Body must accept pain and push others out of their comfort zones, too. Philippians 2:12 reminds us that the painful reality of spiritual growth is that each of us must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Did Paul just say ‘workout’? I realize he’s probably not talking about exercise here, but it’s interesting that he wrote about pain in relationships.
Watch your body in the mirror or watch a partner at the point of exhaustion when faces start to contort, especially the eyes and mouth. God designed these areas of the face with small, sensitive muscles, so these will be the first to reveal our spirits when our bodily strength fades. You may see guilt, anger, sadness or even joy. Remember, our emotions are bodily expressions of relational beliefs. In other words, our physical pain will say something about our current spirit.
We may believe “I’m not strong enough, and it’s not fair that my life (boss, spouse, God, etc.) doesn’t give me time to get stronger!” We may be scared. “I’m supposed to be a dedicated Christian and professional but I’m not in good shape! What will others think of me?” We may be depressed. “I have so much pain in my life. Why can’t God bless me just this once and take some of the pain away?!” Or we could rejoice that we’re fighting for growth through the pain!
Accept the pain that you see in them (or are experiencing in yourself) and talk about it, but be mindful of relational safety, too. There are pros and cons to talking with others about any kind of pain in the moment of suffering – especially relational pain before God. And, of course, there are physical concerns, too. The person might be holding a heavy rack of steel over their head or running with you near traffic!
Make brief comments to let them know that you see their pain, and offer gracious reminders that you are there for them. “I know it burns. I’m here for you” may be enough in the heat of the moment, but follow up with them later as appropriate.
Invest in Christ by talking more deeply with each other before or after the workout. If you’ve seen a pattern in their pain, you could gently say “I’ve noticed that whenever you really push it and start to hurt, you tell us not to spot you. But then you reach muscle-failure, need help, and get up with clenched fists pacing around looking down and mumbling something to yourself. What is that?” Listen carefully to their heart.
Your partners may be evasive or may not even know how to identify their struggle. You can ask them to recall some of the Scriptures they chose for memorization and meditation. They may have chosen the passages because the verses remind them of specific hopes or fears for their life. And the pain (because it is a physical reminder that we don’t have what it takes to go further) may be cueing their guilt, anger, or sadness that they don’t have strength to handle ‘heavy loads’ at home, stamina to ward off emotional pain in relationships, image to secure your approval, etc. Remember, emotions are physical manifestations of our spiritual beliefs! I like the King James Version’s translation of ‘patience’ in Galatians 5:22 – ‘longsuffering’. Be willing to suffer with your partner in pain as long as it takes. True Christian love in His Body is most clear and convincing when it endures through the suffering.
Team with them by encouraging each other to push through the pain. “God has put more inside you!” or “Yes, it hurts! Growth hurts! You can’t grow if you stop now!” or “It’s burning now, but Jesus will grow you through the pain – IF you keep going!” You get the idea. Love them enough to work with them, and accept the same from them as love, too.
You can also partner with them by “bearing a little of their burden” (Galatians 6:1-5) in spotting them. “I’ve got about 2 lbs of your barbell in my hands, so give us 2 more reps!” Or if you’re running/hiking together come up beside them and put your hand lightly on their upper back – just enough to encourage them. Two cautions: 1) first, ask if it’s okay to touch them. People who have been physically abused may perceive any uninvited touch as a strong cue of danger. We don’t want our intended help to do more harm than good. And 2) don’t push – just touch lightly. We don’t want to knock them off-balance, especially if they’re close to exhaustion.
There are many other ways and opportunities to help each other push through the pain. But remember that the goal is not growth for growth’s sake. Focus on Jesus’ specific commands and promises. In what does He call us to grow? The other 23 principles in W.A.I.T. training can provide several ideas.
As you might expect, muscle failure and fatigue are not the only moments of pain when our spirits peak through. Watch yourself and your buddies for those moments of even slight ‘pains’ of difficult emotions: hunger, loneliness, boredom, illness, injuries, etc. All of these can be kinks in our armor, revealing the inner pain of our beliefs (whether these beliefs are true or false).
For example, when we are irritated, (“I’m not getting what I deserve”), worried (“I’m not sure that I’m going to get what I need”), afraid (“I lost something that I need”), embarrassed (“I have been exposed”), regretful (“I should have done better”), or startled (“I wasn’t prepared”). We may feel a knot in our gut, a tight neck, pounding head, aching joints, and withdraw from others, attack them, or find some way to numb the pain.
But when we pacify spiritual pain with food, music, sleep, sex, busywork, or even exercise, we are disabling God’s alarm system of mindfulness to take appropriate action in His Body!
Examine Ephesians 4:19 in context. Instead of avoiding these moments, help each other slow down to notice them. Look for emotions in our body language but always compare what you notice to the truth of God’s Word. You might discover that the bodily experience is part of God’s call to confess your need for Christ, grieve appropriately, ask for other believers’ help, rest in Him, and move forward in the power of His grace.
When we step beyond our empty idolatry of self-reliance into the reality of “I can’t handle this!”, our spirits will begin to reveal our hopes, guilt, anger, and sadness. But these painful moments are some of the best opportunities to grow in the peace of Jesus Christ. As I suggested earlier, physical pain may be the threshold between the comfort zones of our own power, safety, and pleasure and truly following Christ.
Even though I know the truth of these principles, it is still difficult for me to accept that physical pain (fatigue, hunger, aches, etc.) can be a good opportunity. But unless I accept the pain (as opposed to avoiding it) I cannot repent of the idols to which I usually turn for comfort. I cannot enjoy what God will provide beyond the pain if I always avoid the pain.
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