Day 19

“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” – Jude‬ 1‬:20‬ NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

As the calendar turned from 2022 to 2023, a familiar pain started to creep back into my right shoulder. Having been treated for this same pain once before, I sprang into action, using the physical therapy exercises I had learned years earlier. It helped to slow down the progression of the pain, but it didn’t free me from it altogether, as it had five years ago. So, I found myself in my doctor’s office where she ordered that I have an MRI. Unfortunately, the scans showed significant neck issues that I will be dealing with for a while. On a happier note, I find that stretching, light resistance exercises, and just general movement are all excellent ways to get the pain to subside so that I can go through the day living a somewhat normal life. I’ve also noticed, however, that if I miss a few days of “working out” everything starts to stiffen and that stiffening worsens the pain. It’s also much harder to get everything loosened up again once the tightness takes hold.

Pain is a funny thing. There was a saying on the wall of our weight room when I was in high school that read, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” It was up there with a bunch of other similar statements as a kind of motivation for young high school athletes as they trained for their various sports. Endure that pain because on the other side is victory, it seemed to imply. The pain is worth it if it brings success. As a wannabe macho teenager, I bought in to all of this stuff hook, line, and sinker. But as an adult I can look back on that sign on the wall and think, without any hesitation…what a stupid saying that was. I’ve been through enough pain in my life to know that it often doesn’t leave the body, no matter how hard you work at it. And ridding oneself of the pain is certainly no harbinger of being any less weak. Sometimes the pain is just hurt, sorrow, or brokenness and nothing more.

We all have pains in our lives. Sometimes we will be able to reduce that pain; to find comfort or healing or pleasure for a time. But it will really always be there in some form or fashion. Now, before you click away from this post because it’s such a downer, have hope! In my mind all of this is actually freeing! Think of all the time and energy we spend trying to live life pain-free, when instead we can accept the pain, try to reduce it, but more importantly balance it out with pleasure and joy and all the things that help to support us through that pain.

For me it’s about building up the muscles around the things that pain us in order to soften the effect that it has on us and put everything into the proper balance. Those muscles are faith, prayer, kindness, and love. And we need to exercise them consistently over and over and over again in order to strengthen them and make them work better.

And as you work, you wait. The next verse in Jude 1, verse 21, reads, “keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” So, lift those faith weights, stretch those kindness muscles, workout with prayer, find that balance, and then wait for eternal life.

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