I like to pass on the story of a young girl giving away golden retriever puppies in a little pen she had made in her front yard next to a handmade sign. A young boy limped up to her and asked if they were truly free, and she confirmed that he could take any one he wanted. He asked for the one in the back. The girl quickly retorted that that one was the runt of the litter and that he should take one of the perfectly-healthy ones jumping up toward him in the front of the pen. He insisted on the “different” one, cowering in the back. She asked why he chose that one. While rolling up his pant leg, revealing a prosthetic limb, he said, “That one needs someone who understands.”
Sometimes we go through emotionally or physically painful circumstances for the purpose of building our empathy toward others. We need to take our eyes off our own problems and challenges for a while and focus on someone else who is struggling, because we know what it’s like. I believe God allowed it into our lives so that we could help cheer up someone who is going through something similar. What we then realize is how much it cheered US up to encourage that person who needed a boost in their pain: it was part of OUR recovery process! A true win-win.
Not sure where I heard this, but there can be different purposes for pain in our lives, which we may consciously realize in the season of it, are helped to see it from an objective wise mentor/counselor/friend, or years later come to appreciate it, upon further reflection. Pain can be there to:
- Direct us. It may reveal the way we need to go, because we have no other choice but the one pointed out.
- Correct us. It may reveal bad habits or unhelpful trains of thought or downright destructive decisions that we must stop.
- Perfect us. It may sharpen us, rubbing off the rough edges of our personality, upping our humility, or strengthening a skill. I remember how criticized I was when student teaching back in college–almost quitting, but ultimately getting better.
- Protect us. It may keep a stumble from becoming a full-on fall into a hole. Pain can be like a railroad crossing of gates and sounds and flashing lights to prevent a course of action that could be more detrimental to your future.
- Inspect us. It may be the crucible that reveals who we really are on the inside. What is in our heart eventually comes out our mouths, and we might not like what’s in there. Pain as a mirror may be a wake-up call for personal growth.
Don’t waste your current painful circumstance. Then it’s just wasted time. Instead, consider these 5 potential positive outcomes of pain, remembering that physical pain was built into us as a warning system that something is wrong and needs fixing, right away. We often don’t change without hurting enough to have to change, as John Maxwell says. So, use the pain as a change-agent in your life, and you will exponentially GROW FORWARD!
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