The Purpose of Pain

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” – 1 Timothy 4:8

I struggle with chronic back pain, which often prevents me from being able to exercise like I want. Having been an athlete and personal trainer, I’ve always enjoyed working out. However, in the past several years, I’ve been able to do less and less.

One morning when I was feeling frustrated about my condition, I opened up God’s Word for encouragement. According to my “Read through the Bible in a Year” calendar, I was supposed to read Jeremiah 41-45. Even though I’d gotten off track and actually read that passage the day before, I decided to read it again. I had a feeling God had something new to show me. I was right.

In chapter 45, the prophet Jeremiah is speaking to Baruch, a scribe whose job was to record Jeremiah’s words on a scroll. For whatever reason, Baruch is upset. We know this because says Baruch cried, “Woe is me! The LORD has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest (45:3).”

Jeremiah then goes on to deliver two prophecies regarding the future of the Israelites. Sandwiched between these statements are a question and command that got my attention. Jeremiah asks Baruch, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not (45:5).”

I knew God was speaking to me. However, I didn’t completely understand the meaning of the passage, so I checked my Bible’s commentary for insight:

“God told Baruch to take his eyes off himself and whatever rewards he thought he deserved. The more we look away from God’s purposes toward our own sacrifices, the more frustrated we will become. As you serve God, beware of focusing on what you are giving up. When this happens, ask God’s forgiveness; then look at him rather than at yourself.”

I immediately thought of my book, The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast. It would never have been written if severe shin splints hadn’t forced me to rest for eight weeks in the summer of 2009. The hours I would have normally spent running, biking, and lifting weights were traded for time at my computer, writing. God had to do something drastic to slow me down. He used the pain to align my life with his purposes.

I believe God is once again asking me to sacrifice something temporal (physical training) for something eternal (spiritual growth). So what if I can’t run 5Ks and bike 50 miles anymore? It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s not the end of anything at all. This affliction sets the stage for a new work God wants to do in me. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do!

What sacrifice does God want you to make? Be willing to give up something good for something better. It’s always worth it.

Lord, forgive me for focusing on myself. I choose today to set my mind and heart on you. Help me to grow in godliness so that your purposes may be accomplished in my life.