We've all got one. I've got several. The disciple Paul talks about having "a thorn in his side" (2 Cor. 12:7). What is yours? What is that bothersome, painful annoyance or terrible trial in your life that you deal with day after day, month after month? Has it left you feeling hopeless?
I have labeled this pain my "prickly pear". Sometimes it's a person, sometimes it's a circumstance. Regardless, there's no hiding from it. Believe me, I've tried! The secret to "dealing with it" is what I'm going to share with you now.
Initially, I realize it may serve a higher purpose. You may be thinking, "Is she kidding? Pain is good for me?" Please hear me out. I'm not for pain. I admit, I'd rather live the smooth, care-free life! However, I have come to the revelation that "life without pain" doesn't exist on earth. But thank goodness, it does exist - in the next life. In the meantime, our time of testing can eventually become our testimony. When you share your testimony, you are serving a higher purpose. To encourage and inspire others in their time of testing will also help relieve your pain.
To realize my prickly pear has a purpose, I take notice. What is that purpose for me personally?One purpose is that it forces me to realize that I am not all-powerful, only God is. It keeps me humble, and dependent on Him to give me strength. I have experienced supernatural strength many times by allowing God to infuse me with His power in a time of utter weakness.
Also, pain forces us to grow. We become more mature as a result. I've read the beginning of the book of James many times, to understand why I've been planted on the road of pain. After years of traveling on this road, I've began to reap the fruit of my labor. I now have a good deal of perseverance, faith and joy as a result. For these gifts, I'm deeply grateful.
In order to grow we need a soft, teachable heart. Like the little hedgehog pictured above, when it's in a state of trust and relaxation, it can be held. But when it is fearful, it's 7000 sharp quills stand at attention! It will also roll into a ball to protect its soft underbelly. Are we trusting and relaxed in the hand of God during our times of suffering? Or are we fearful, keeping everyone and God at arm's distance?
We have to be willing to be stretched to grow. We have to become "Gumby." For you younger folk, Gumby was an animated TV character that became a popular toy that was stretchy. You could pull on its arms and legs and temporarily deform it. It would eventually go back into its original shape.
Sometimes this is how pain works. It temporarily pulls us out of shape, making us feel emotionally or perhaps, physically deformed and unbalanced. But eventually, we get back to where we feel comfortable with our "newly stretched state". But unlike Gumby, we are never the same again. Pain transforms us into something more beautiful as it helps us grow.
That is why the book of James starts out with "Consider it pure joy men and women of faith, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
I have learned that joy comes in the morning, after the night of darkness. That's why there is always a reason to hope.
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