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No Pain, No Gain


In the early years of our community, we all actively participated in fun runs. The more serious runners would often say, "No pain, no gain." I was sometimes amazed at the amount of discipline some athletes exercised in order to excel in their sport. Hours of every day would be taken up with developing physical fitness, speed, and endurance. To excel, they had to learn to push through what was called "the pain barrier". But when they succeeded, they would come out on the other side as winners.

We noticed, though, that sport is one of the few remaining areas of life in Western society where physical discipline is encouraged. We live in a generation of quick, easy fixes. Drugs of one form or another are expected to solve all of our physical (and for some, even our spiritual and emotional) problems. The drugs range from legitimate prescription drugs and alcohol, to dangerous and illegal drugs.

In the midst of all this, we seem to have forgotten that suffering is an inescapable part of life in the real world. Many of us continue to search for a world where there will be no pain, no suffering, and no death. We run away from and rebel against anything that seeks to bring us back to this reality.

Unfortunately, most of us feel happiness means being free from pain and suffering. We assume that happiness and pain are opposites, and this is a very wrong assumption. Happiness is elusive because it cannot be achieved as an end in itself. It's a by-product of a well-lived life. And suffering is part of any well-lived life. So when we seek to avoid all pain (whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual), we actually cheat ourselves out of true happiness.

Until recent times, Christians accepted that suffering would be a necessary part of their lives. (2 Timothy 2:12, and 1 Peter 1:6-7) This attitude helped them to work through their pain and suffering. It purified them, making them stronger, more compassionate, and more useable for God.

Learning to suffer starts at birth (the baby's first test of endurance), and it should continue throughout life. Everyone must learn to cope with little pains in positive ways when they are young, so that they can manage greater sufferings later in life. Parents who overly protect their children hinder their children's maturation process. We all need to learn how to deal with pain in order to become adults. We need to make mistakes, and learn from them, in order to become stronger and wiser. Avoiding mistakes and the pains associated with them (by withdrawing from the battle) keeps us forever immature.

When some of us long-standing community members get together, we occasionally reminisce about our times together in the past. It is interesting to note that we rarely discuss our trips to Disneyland or our dinner parties with ambassadors and other celebrities. What we most talk about, instead, are the hard times that we have gone through; and we do so with much enthusiasm and with fond memories. The hard times, the dangerous times, and the painful times, have given us our greatest spiritual treasures. They have drawn us close together, and they have helped us become who we are today.

Finding meaning from suffering requires effort, and a certain amount of mental discipline. As we move from a "Why me?" attitude to a "What can I learn from this?" attitude, God will meet us with his grace, giving us hope and strength. As long as we keep trying, God (and often other people) will continue to help us. It's only when we give up trying that there is no hope. For no one, not even God can do it for us. God will not overrule our will. It's up to us to keep trying, and when we do, we'll find God gets beneath our heavy burden and lifts it along with us.

The Bible says that even Jesus learned obedience through the things that he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8) The next time we encounter something that gives us pain, we need to remember that it, too, is a part of God's will for us. However painful it may be, it's part of God's refining process, to make us come through like gold. No pain, no gain!

(See also Positive Thinking.)


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