This Is Going to Hurt

November 14, 2013

One of my all-time favorite movies is Hook, starring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts and Maggie Smith. There’s this great scene where Captain Hook (Hoffman) is stealing the affections of the kidnapped children of grown up Peter Pan (Williams). Hook is making more progress with the already alienated son Jack than the younger daughter Maggie. Soon we see Jack dressed up as a miniature Captain Hook, but one thing more is needed to complete the costume: a pierced ear to accommodate a big gold ear ring. As Hook holds up his arm hook, the tool of choice for ear-piercing, he gleefully utters in Jack’s ear, “This is really going to hurt.”

On Tuesday, the nurse practitioner didn’t say it quite like Hook did, but she warned me that at a certain stage (or two, or three) in my bone marrow biopsy it would hurt. I appreciated the heads-up, and she was right if only for a minute or two. And the main reason for the pain was that I have, as she said, very strong and hard bones!

Aside from the good news about my bones—more evidence that I am going into this treatment adventure generally healthy and strong—her warning got me thinking about a dynamic we have been taught to welcome in the Christian life:  it is going to hurt in the short term, but later it will be okay. Various Scriptures come to mind:

Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
Psalm 30:5b, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Matthew 16:21, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering … and be killed, and (oh, by the way) on the third day be raised.”

And my personal favorite:

Hebrews 12:11, “Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

It helps to know that a little investment in a painful discipline now will yield something good in the end. In my case, I am hoping the result is a cure and freedom from cancer for the remainder of my earthly life. Getting there is going to be a rough go, and God is making me strong for the challenge. But even if that outcome is not what is in store for me, I am assured that our sovereign Lord has blessings already flowing into my life, his abiding presence will sustain me, and that godly peace will surpasses understanding. Some of these things can only be experienced through a period of painful trial, but God is glorious victor:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . .No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

But there’s another twist to the accounting for pain and suffering. In some ways, we can choose our pain. You understand, I did not choose this situation for myself and don’t in any way believe that people choose to get sick. But listen to what Peter says in his letter:

For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.  If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:19-21)

In other words, faced with a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing with either way having painful consequences, choose to do the right thing. It is far easier to deal with pain that is the result of a right, moral, or ethical choice, than it is to suffer the pain that goes with bad choices and alienation from God.

So this is my word to congregations, Presbyterian and otherwise, this day: you are faced with tough decisions every week, some requiring risk analysis and a counting of the cost. Do not choose the way of least resistance to avoid short-term pain, but do the right thing. It may be painful (or expensive, or controversial) in the short-term, but later that choice will yield sweet fruit: stronger church members, a flourishing ministry, Christ glorified, and the clearer visibility of the Kingdom through your witness. When someone tells you, “This is really going to hurt,” test the notion by asking yourself, would this be pain that Jesus would gladly bear if he were in my shoes? Or would this be a self-inflicted suffering brought on by disobedience, cowardice, or pride? That brief assessment will help you make good decisions for your church and your future. It’s going to be tough for awhile, but later . . . just wait to see what God does!

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3 Responses to “This Is Going to Hurt”

  1. Larry Wood Says:

    Mary, your posts re your cancer are an inspiration to me. You are in my prayers. Larry

  2. Debi Murphy Says:

    You are so right, Mary! Love reading your reflections and being able to walk alongside virtually and in prayer for you daily. God be with you this day.

  3. Donna Schumacher Says:

    Thank you Mary for sharing your incredible insights with all of us. Each one is such an encouragement. Praying for you!

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