No Pain, No Gain

There is no growth without pain.

God reminded me of this truth again this past Saturday night. A fiery, throbbing sciatica flare up made an unfriendly and extended visit to my right thigh, rendering that leg about as useful as a cane.  I could not put any pressure on the leg and felt like a peg-legged pirate dragging the miserable thing along as I walked. The pain was so intense that I could not sleep and was whimpering like a wounded animal, causing Mike and I to consider an expensive out-of-pocket trip to the emergency room of our local hospital.

Didn’t God know that I had no time for pain? I was scheduled to share about the sanctity of human life at church Sunday morning and after that, had a full day of ministry ahead of me. What was God thinking?

It dawned on me that Satan was trying to take me out. I was not going down without a fight, so we prayed for healing, I loaded up on pain medication, got ready and went to church. I was not disappointed but the devil was. Instead, I was blessed by:

  • Art’s insightful teaching from the book of Numbers;
  • Shawn and the worship team’s song set which was loaded with my favorites and lifted me up;
  • Don Hansen’s moving song about abortion from a father’s perspective;
  • Many in my church family who expressed compassion for my suffering and prayed for me; and
  • Dan’s sermon from the book of Job, reminding me that my temporary sciatica pain could not compare with the suffering of Job, who lost absolutely everything and everyone, including his health and his family, and yet still praised the Lord.

God does not want our inner peace and joy to rise and fall with our feelings, the balance in our checking account, or even with the level of our physical, relational or emotional pain. Life is a storm. There will be pain and it will suck. While we all want to enjoy pain-free living until the moment we die, that is not how life works.

God allows adversity and uncertainty in our lives to test our faith, to remind us of our need for him and to conform us to his image. It’s not that he doesn’t care about our temporary happiness. It is just that, like a good father, he cares more about our best interest. We only see our horizon, but God sees our eternity, far beyond where heaven meets earth.

We will not grow stronger, more resilient and reliant on God if we do not face adversity. For it is in the midst of suffering that we are forced to trust in Him alone for deliverance and where we finally understand that He is sovereign over all our circumstances and will use them for our good and His glory.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Lord, thank you for using my sciatica suffering to bend my knees, bow my head, lift my eyes and raise my hands in praise and gratitude to you for all that you have done for me. Help us to remain joyful in our trials, not because they are so much fun, but because we are confident in the fact that you will use them for our good and growth in you. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen!

When 97% is Not Good Enough

You are only as good as your last performance.

Just ask Blair Walsh. The Minnesota Vikings kicker was almost perfect when it came to chip shots, having made 33 of his last 34 field goal attempts inside the 30 yard line. But almost perfect is not perfect, which means that occasionally he will miss a 27 yard gimme.

And when he does, especially in an important game, it will not matter that he had previously kicked all of his team’s points that game, or that he is one of the best kickers in the NFL. Because he wasn’t perfect on that day, Walsh wasn’t good enough.

It feels great to be at the top of your game. The fans, coaches and commentators love you and you can do no wrong. At least, until you do – like fumble or throw one too many interceptions. Then watch those same folks abandon you faster than integrity from a presidential candidate.

Consider my man, 5 time NFL MVP Denver Bronco quarterback, Peyton Manning, who has passed for more yards than any quarterback in league history and yet was benched this season for not being good enough. The prince of the pocket had fallen from grace. Instead of leading Broncos in the backfield, Peyton was put out to pasture to lead their colts on the scout team.

Perhaps you, too, once were all that. Respected, admired, loved – a crowd or at least a family favorite. And then you screwed up big time or got old or otherwise lost your Midas touch, and suddenly you were no longer good enough.

Or maybe you never were good enough to begin with for this harsh, demanding, unforgiving and fair weather world.

The truth, whether we recognize it or not, is that none of us are good enough and we will never be good enough because none of us are perfect. We will miss the mark. We will disappoint people. We will fail. As my other man, Mack Powell of Third Day sings:

“Well no matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, there will come a time when you can’t make it on your own”

It is when we finally accept and embrace the fact that we are not good enough on our own, that God delivers the good news. Regardless of the world’s fickle opinion of us, God says that because He created us in His image, we are not just good enough, in His eyes we are very good.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:27,31.

“When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Titus 3:4-5

 “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31

That’s right, sports fans – God loves you and says you are valuable to him. Not because of anything you have done, so it doesn’t matter if you are a hot shot or a societal nobody. God loves you and says you are good enough because of who He is and what he has done – a merciful, grace giving, faithful Father who gave the life of his only Son to redeem you. And just as a good father on earth loves his kids without them doing anything special to earn that love, so, too, your good heavenly Father loves you.

You are of great value to God. So don’t sweat your last performance. He isn’t keeping score. And while God celebrates the wins with you, he celebrates the losses even more, because he understands that they drive you to your knees and turn your heart toward Him faster and further than any win ever could.

While you may not be all that all the time, you, Blair and Peyton can thank God that He is.

Karen Wilson is happily married to her main man, Mike Wilson