When Life Gives You Lemons, Grow

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Romans 5:3

The lemon of pain in our lives produces some amazing results.

Now, before we go on, let the record show, I do not like pain. Instead of “No pain, no gain,” my philosophy is “No pain, no ow-ies.”

Philip Yancey, in his wonderful book In His Image, documents the work of leprosy doctor Paul Brandt. The reason for the destruction of flesh and muscle is that the victims feel no pain. So, if a leprosy patient gashes the bottom of his foot while walking barefoot, he won’t notice a problem until it is infected to the point of losing his foot. Pain then, Yancey argues, is a gift from God. Without it, we wouldn’t have a clue we were sitting on a hot stove or a rat was gnawing on our leg until severe damage had been inflicted.

I received such a “gift” several years ago. I had just settled into my warm waterbed after a long day, when suddenly it felt as if a semi tractor-trailer with snow chains and a load of rolled steel had parked on my lower back. As my wife drove me to the hospital, I tried Lamaze breathing as I dug my fingernails into the van’s armrests.

During the twenty-minute drive, I probably called out the name of “Jeeeee-sus” more times than any televangelist. I prayed that Jesus would return—right then and there—as I writhed on the cold x-ray table wearing nothing but a sheet and what little remained of my dignity after losing my dinner all over the examining room.

Finally, the ER staff—that must have been on a union-guaranteed break—returned and announced that I had a kidney stone. My kidney would have failed within a few days if God hadn’t put half of my pain and pleasure receptors in my plumbing.

Pain produces perspective

Although I had a deadline for my weekly newspaper column the next day and was finishing up a book (I had almost all the pages colored.), those things were suddenly at the bottom of my “to-do” list. It wasn’t even important that I was unshaved, unshowered and wearing my grubbiest sweats when I stumbled into the ER. And though I’m the type who always locks the bathroom door—even when no one is home—I checked my modesty at the hospital’s front desk. After three surgeries in three hospitals in two months, doctors were finally able to pry the stubborn stone loose. The experience provided a whole new way of looking at life.

Pain produces perseverance

The most positive, loving people I know have histories of great emotional or physical pain and yet they have persevered. As my dad used to remind me, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

Pain produces purpose

I can say with the utmost confidence—and I have a degree in theology and an ordination certificate—I don’t have a clue! I really don’t. I do know, however, that whether God causes, allows, or simply takes a “hands of” approach to pain, He does somehow personally, actively, miraculously work it for our good. But I think God is more than willing to answer “how” we can use these tragedies to conform us into the people He desires us to be.

We’ll probably never know the answer to “why,” but we can know the answer to what we can learn from the problem and how we can help others who are going through the same thing. Don’t waste your pain; grow from it.

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Your Turn

Join the conversation by adding your comments below!

How have you grown through painful experiences?


SqueezingGoodOutofBad

Squeezing Good Out of Bad 

by: James Watkins

Normal Price: $9.99

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jimwatkinsJim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella! He is • author/contributor to over 30 books and over two thousand articles• acquisitions editor for Wesleyan Publishing House• conference speaker throughout North America and overseas• editorial adviser for ACW Press• instructor at Taylor University• minister of communications at The River Community Church, and • child of God. The first six titles note what he does, but not who he is. “Whether I succeed or fail in those jobs, I know that my identity is secure in being an unconditionally loved child of God.”

About Be the Light Editor

Martin Wiles is a minister, author, freelance editor, and English teacher who lives in Greenwood, SC. He is the founder of Love Lines from God and is the author of Grits & Grace and God and Grits, Gumbo and Going to Church. He serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions (www.christiandevotions.us) and Assistant Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He and his wife are parents of two and grandparents of three.