Sometimes life takes us down unexpected paths that twist and turn in directions we hadn’t considered taking, even those we would never ever have chosen to take. If the path is difficult and unpleasant, we often try to find a way out, an escape from the pain. It’s our basic nature to want to avoid pain and seek pleasure. You’ve been there, right?
At the same time, we recognize the truth in the popular adage, “No gain without pain.” And so we endure and persevere as long as we can see a better outcome at the end of the road. Most parents are faced with enduring the really tough parts of childrearing, trusting that our enduring efforts will help guide the maturing our our children. We don’t like surgery but we endure it because we believe in the good outcome it will produce. Nobody chooses chemo as a recreational drug but we endure it because of its potential to kill the disease that threatens to kill us.
But enduring is not just holding on. It’s learning to let go.
As Marcia and I were recently reading about “enduring” suffering, we found it interesting that the Spanish translation used the word “resisting.” It reminded us that enduring is not just clenching our teeth and impatiently waiting for pain to end. Enduring involves resisting the temptation to cling to what works against us. It means letting go of:
Feelings of hopelessness
Our sense that we can control everything
When you’re facing difficult times, aren’t these some of the things that cause you stress and maybe even make you feel like throwing in the towel? But when we seem to be at the end of our rope and we have no strength to hold on, there’s hope. God promises to never leave us alone in our troubles. He brings a certain strength to our weakness. He promises that he will show us peace even while the storm rages around and within us. He shows us the path to confidence that endurance pays off. He shines his light on a path of faith that leads us out of the valley of fear. The truth of his light exposes the lies we’re tempted to believe. He proves that even when our lives our spinning wildly out of control, he holds the whole universe in balance, and He reminds us that even the end of our lives are really just the beginning. He brings perspective where we only see confusion.
When we let go we can let God.
I’m writing this on my first day of my most recent chemotherapy, reflecting also on my “very first day of chemo” from nearly three years ago. Here’s the truth I’ve experienced throughout this unexpected journey, truth that I think is relevant to each of us who are enduring some level of hardship:
The weight of pain and suffering seems great, but an enduring faith reveals a greater joy yet to behold. This pain is light and momentary. It won’t last forever.
Not even pain can separate us from God’s love, unless we let it.
God is able to work good through ALL situations, if we let him.
Fixing our focus on him allows us escape the bondage of focusing exclusively on our problems.
Faith is like a bank account. You have to make deposits before you can take withdrawals.
Pain and suffering reveals who we really are and also who we want to become.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. So is your life. Don’t waste your pain or sorrow. Enduring pain and resisting the lies our feelings tell us maximizes our potential to grow closer – to each other and to God.
Let’s resist the impulse to quickly pray away every pain and sorrow, and instead ask for the strength and grace to endure it while we draw closer to God and closer to others on the unexpected path we share. Let’s not only hold on. Let’s let go of everything that trips us up and keeps us from God’s best.