Growth Through Pain
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 1:9
I may not like it, but it’s been my life experience that I grow the most through discomfort. At the gym, I don’t get where I want to go by doing nothing. I get faster and stronger only by embracing physical stress. If I’m comfortable and content where I am, I can do nothing but then I can’t complain when I don’t improve. In fact, in doing nothing, I regress, gaining fat and losing strength. The same has often been true for me in my spiritual life. When I’m content doing nothing, I don’t naturally grow. Rather, I decline. I follow my appetite, doing whatever I feel like, which is rarely healthy for me. Then, God often must introduce some painful stimulus to wake me from my slumber. I may not like it, but it’s often only in the desperate trials that I desperately turn to God, who uses the pain to get my attention.
Doing things my way once led to a drug addiction. In my addiction, I knew I needed help, but as long as I could keep living my way, getting help was just too much work. Confession was too painful. Treatment was too disruptive. I remained unwilling to do those things until life as I knew it was taken away from me. Then, in the cataclysm, I finally became willing to do all the difficult, uncomfortable things God had been asking me to do. I may not like it, but I grow the most through the most miserable trials.
I must wonder if the apostle John felt something similar. He’d been one of the twelve disciples, walking with Jesus. He’d been a faithful follower of Christ and leader of the early church. Then, he was exiled by the Roman authorities – for spreading the gospel – to the Island of Patmos, where convicts were sent. John saw his sentence as a tribulation through which he endured patiently for the sake of the kingdom. John apparently didn’t whine and complain about his difficulties. Rather, he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when he received his vision, the inspiration for the book of Revelation. Though it was obviously an unpleasant trial, John remained faithful in following God, who used the trial to produce the final book in the Bible.
We may not like it, but God uses pain to shape and grow us. We may feel this is cruel, but in light of eternity, our spiritual health is far more important than our physical or emotional comfort.