By Ricky Chelette, Executive Director
Born with “bad feet” and a lazy eye, from the moment I came into this world I looked a little weird. As a kid, my mom put drops in my eye that she reports were so strong they could blister the skin. I didn’t like them much, but they were necessary. My feet were another problem. Flat-footed with one club foot, I was fitted with orthopedic shoes from the moment I began to walk. These were not the stylish shoes of the day. They only came in one style and it was ugly. They were bulky, thick-soled, and had a huge arch inside them that felt like I was walking on a huge rock all the time. One shoe also had a strap attached to it that was then attached to my hip to pull my foot into proper position. I wasn’t quite Forrest Gump, but I was close.
Pain is part of our human experience. From our entrance into this world, to our growing, to aging and eventually to our death, our life is fraught with pain and suffering. I remember how much those shoes hurt. I remember how some of the kids in elementary school teased me. I remember I couldn’t run well in them. But whenever I would complain, my sweet mom would remind me that though the pain was real, it was working something in me that would be good for a lifetime.
The problem is we live in a world averse to pain. Our modern age allows us to medicate every discomfort with a myriad of remedies and distractions. This can be helpful when we experience physical pain caused by disease or injury, but sometimes this aversion to pain prevents us from becoming the people God intends us to be. Pain is a great teacher; it signals something has to change.
Pain strips away the superfluous in our life. It causes us to see what is real, what is important, and what is true. Pain is, in many instances, a divine opportunity for growth and maturity. I endured the pain of those wretched orthopedic shoes for years. My feet eventually healed and I was later able to run like a stallion! Far too often we attempt to remove pain from our lives when in fact God intends to refine us by it.
Jesus understands the pain of humanity because He became one of us. In Hebrews 5:7-10 the writer states:
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…”
Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered.” Jesus, the perfect, sinless, Son of God learned obedience through suffering? How can this be? While it seems odd that Christ would “learn” in this way, the truth is that obedience is only experienced when it is practiced. In other words, a command must be given and followed. An obstacle must be faced and overcome. An addiction must be owned and I must deny it and submit it to Christ. That means there must be a time of testing, a time when the option to do something other than obey is present.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are tempted, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). As a human with all the temptations of the flesh, Jesus chose to obey the Father. He could have escaped. He was God. He faced a pain more severe than any of us. The cross was looming in His immediate future. He knew it. He saw it. He knew it was the purpose for which He came into the world (Jn. 18:37-38). The crucifixion offered Christ the opportunity to experience what we experience in the flesh – the ability to choose obedience. Out of that momentary suffering, He was “made perfect [means complete; fulfilling the mission] and became the source of salvation for all who would obey” (Heb. 5:9). What a Savior!
I don’t think much about those shoes or the eye drops anymore. Their memory seems like a lifetime ago. My feet have walked all over the world sharing the Gospel and my eye has seen the glory of God’s creation and the beauty of the saints who trust in Him. Who would have known? A little suffering in the moment did indeed bring a lifetime of goodness.
What are the pains in your life? What do your corrective shoes look like? Early childhood abuse, a deep sense of loneliness, feelings of abandonment, rape, bullying, or utter betrayal? Will you let your pain bring you closer to Jesus? Will you submit to His ways and allow the life of the Son to flow through you and grow you into the man or woman God wants you to be? Will you allow the Refiners fire to work in you, purifying your life to reflect the glory of God?
So I ask the question, why must life hurt? In order that He might truly heal! Life is painful, but that pain can allow us to experience precious fellowship with our Savior.