Pain is a great motivator. When a physical condition or a relationship causes us significant pain, we attend to it. We take action, change or do whatever is necessary to stop the pain. But if the pain is only slight, we tend to let it fester until it is so bothersome it cannot be ignored.

Recently I strained my lower back – again. This time I was laid up and loaded down with muscle relaxers and over the counter pain killers for almost five days. I knew what caused it. The same thing that was responsible for each of my other twice yearly lower back strains for the last two decades – weak muscles. I also knew how to prevent future strains. If I wanted to enjoy pain free movement as long as possible, then I needed to consistently perform exercises that engaged my back and stomach muscles.

So if I knew what I needed to do to get the outcome I desired – a strong and flexible back – why had I not yet done it?

Simple. Because the pain had not been bad enough yet to motivate me to change my behavior and develop the habit of regular core exercise. I felt strong and healthy most of the time, so what was a few days of manageable pain every six to nine months?

A friend calls this the 75% rule. If something in your life is pretty good about 75% of the time, he suggests that you shouldn’t change anything. But if your satisfaction level falls below this arbitrary percentage of contentment, it’s time to make a change.

If we want to stop the pain and find joy in life again, then we must take action. The pain is our problem, not somebody else’s. If we wait for somebody or something else to do or stop doing something to take away our pain, we will wait our lives away. Pain is a warning light that tells us we better look into an area of our life now, before serious damage is done. Pain and its consequences are much easier to deal with if we detect and treat the underlying cause sooner rather than later.

Where are you hurting today? Is the pain in your body, mind or heart? What do you need to change in your life to make the pain go away, prevent it from returning and bring back the joy?

Is there a habit you have cultivated that is making you suffer? Drugs? Alcohol? Gossip? Pornography? Have you eaten yourself into a disease like diabetes or obesity? Or are you being eaten up inside with resentment or bitterness toward your spouse, child or a friend? Are you addicted to social media? Has your tongue lashed out at yet another victim? Are you starving a loved one’s soul and being starved in return by withholding kindness, affection, love or respect?

Maybe something terrible has happened to you for which you were not responsible. If so, I am sorry. But what are you going to do about it? Accept it, grieve and mourn and then, as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption said, make a choice: get busy living or get busy dying.

We were made to move. God designed our brains, hearts, blood, skin, joints and muscles to work together in perfect harmony so that we could move. We rest, but we were not made to rest. Rest is what we do so that we can move – walk, run, bend, stretch, reach, laugh, jump, serve. If we don’t use a body part, it begins to atrophy. We must use it or lose it. To avoid accelerating the natural process of dying, we have to move.

In what area of your life are you ready to move? What will you change? It’s time to do something. Baby steps count. Thinking about taking a baby step does not.

Life is for the living, so let’s get up and get after it.

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” – Psalm 39:4

 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus, John 10:10

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