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04 Jul '09

Avoiding Pain

Posted by T.J. Addington in spiritual formation, suffering, The heart
Contributing Writer
Ellen Conserva
ReachGlobal Thailand

My friend recently told me about his recovery after shoulder surgery and how long and painful it was. He was finally at a place where he could function, but found that he still needed to make a few adjustments.

“So, I went back to my old comfortable chair the other day. I have been using a temporary chair without arms so I could get close enough to my keyboard without lifting my arm. Well my old chair has big arms that don’t fit under the desk, so I lowered the chair and then my shoulder was up too high. I finally decided to order a good ergonomic chair.”

What struck me about this story is how we react to discomfort. It seems that, like my friend Matt, I also adjust things in my life to avoid pain.

I don’t make that phone call I should, because I know that I will be in tears by the time I hang up.

I don’t start conversations that will eventually give me a stomachache.

I don’t look up as I drive past the temple where a dear boy at the orphanage was cremated, because that memory is just too raw for me to deal with.

I haven’t sent any of my stories in to a publisher yet because I am afraid that my fears will come true…I’m just not good enough.

I don’t look in the mirror sometimes, either! Just too painful at certain times in the day!

I wonder if this whole “avoidance” thing is right though…aren’t we meant to face our fears? Aren’t I supposed to look into the eye of the monster and take him by the throat and tell him that he doesn’t scare me?

The Bible says “Fear not.” It also says that we will all suffer. So what gives? Are we meant to suffer but not be afraid? Does God want us to grin and bear it? Or are we all just destined to quietly cower in the corner, flinching and twitching when something scary comes to call?

The Bible says something else, too….”for everyone born of God overcomes the world…this is the victory.” (1 John 5:4) So that means that we are already victorious over the things that scare us, that cause us pain. This is a promise that God gives, even before the scary thing freaks us out. We are already standing in a place of victory. We are already on the Victor’s Stand…the place where there are kisses and medals and trophies and champagne poured over our heads and down our necks.

So, before I ever face a particular battle or fear in my life, I already know that I am victorious; that I have won. That I have defeated the scary monster before I even open my mouth to yell at him to leave me alone.

Jesus had a scary monster, too. It was the cross. And He knew that He would be victorious, before He pointed one toe in that direction. Maybe that is why He didn’t try and avoid the pain that He knew He would face. He looked up at it. He looked right through it, too , I imagine, right to the other side. Right to the empty tomb. He saw it all before Him, right to the very end. He saw the Victor’s Stand and the kisses and the trophy and the “well done, You!”. He saw and felt His Father’s embrace. He heard the angels singing praises and shouting, “Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain!”

So, I must draw this conclusion then….that my fears and pains are taken care of already. That I do not need to avoid them. I need to let Jesus grab the scary monster by the throat and yell at him for me.

I need to surrender. And I need to remember that surrendering doesn’t mean that I lose. Surrender means I don’t have to fight anymore.