Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Wax on, wax off"

Pain. Discouragement. Grief. Failure. Numbness.


We all face it, in one form or another. For some, it seems to be their entire life. For others, it hits them occasionally. For all of us, there are probably extended periods when we stare into the face of death, disease, losing a job, bankruptcy, or divorce.

Why isn't life easy? Why do we have to go through pain?

The more I think and read about this question (including study of the Scriptures), the more I believe that "why?" is the wrong question. The better question is, "How will God use it to shape us into what we were meant to be?"

There are lots of Bible passages where we see this. We see that Job, possibly the most afflicted man in history, never learns why; but, he does come through it with a better understanding of God's character. We see in Hebrews and James that adversity is used to shape us and produce godly character. We see in Romans that everything - everything - is designed to conform us into the image of Jesus.

And years ago I saw a great example in a classic movie: The Karate Kid (1984).

In this movie (the original, not the 2010 retelling), young Daniel is being picked on at his high school by some bullies. To defend himself, he begins to learn from an elderly man who knows the martial arts. He asks for lessons but gets something much different from Mr. Miyagi: task after task that makes him feel like he's being used as a personal handyman. Sand the floor. Wax the car. Paint the walls. The frustration builds until...

So, he learns that it all did have a point. As he went through hours and hours of manual labor - seemingly pointless except as a way for Miyagi to get his chores done - he was learning. His body was developing muscle memory that would help him defend himself.

Whatever we are going through this very day, whatever struggles we have, may seem incredibly pointless. Why is work so hard? What doesn't she love me anymore? Why did she have to die? Why did I have to get sick? Why am I going through this?

I don't know why. I suspect I never will in this life, and neither will you. But I do know that God can use it to strengthen me, to build character, and to conform me to what he wants me to be. And if I let him, he will.

When pain comes next, I pray that I will have the strength to trust him and let it happen.

(For more on this topic, I recommend Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges.)

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