It’s time for a better life goal

My neighbor, Gracie Rosenberger, is an incredible lady.  She fell asleep at the wheel when she was 17 and barely survived the horrific crash.  In the years since, she has had both her legs amputated, undergone over 70 surgeries, and pretty much lives her life in excruciating pain.  Yet she is truly one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.  She refuses to let her disability become a handicap.

Gracie recently released a book called “Gracie (Standing with Hope)” with her husband Peter, and together they chronicle their journey of grace, doubt, and God’s faithfulness through it all.  It’s an amazing story.  There is a quote from Gracie in the book that just about knocked me over.  Keep in mind, this is a woman who lives her life in a constant state of pain.  Here’s the quote,

“Pain relief is not a worthy life goal.”

Now, Gracie would be the first person to say, “I’m no hero,” but that quote, spoken by a woman who has suffered so much, is heroic.

Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And it made me think.  I’m thinking about all the people who have made pain relief their life’s goal.  Maybe not physical pain, but emotional and spiritual pain.  I’m thinking of all the people who medicate themselves with alcohol, drugs, and other substances, all in pursuit of pain relief.  I’m thinking of the young people who cut themselves to relieve their pain, the affairs and broken marriages, the sexual addictions.  We have tried many medicines, but found no cure.

I’m also thinking of myself.  Is that the extent of my life’s goal, to not hurt?  I might not turn to something as obvious as alcohol or drugs, but I’m avoiding pain in every way I can.  I’ve been afraid to try new things and take risks because I fear the pain of failure.  Pain relief has driven me to waste countless hours in mindless entertainment and frivolity.  Pain relief has caused me to hold back in my relationships out of fear of intimacy.  Pain relief has caused me to disobey God, because His calling requires opening myself up to ridicule and rejection.

How about you?  Is your life an elaborate web of pain relief?  Has it become your life’s goal just to avoid pain?  What might happen if you took that risk and opened yourself up to what God really has for you?  Paul faced the same dilemma in Philippians 3,

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

There is no “power of His resurrection” without the “fellowship of His sufferings.”  There is no gaining Christ without the loss of everything else.  There is no resurrection without being conformed to His death.  Paul understood the pain that might be involved, but found the reward worth the risk, the gain worth the loss, the life worth the dying.

Maybe it’s time we come up with a life goal greater than pain relief.

Peter and Gracie Rosenberger have a foundation called “Standing with Hope.”  It helps to provide prosthetic limbs to amputees in Africa.  If you’d like to help with their great work or find out more about it, go to www.standingwithhope.com

  1. #1 by Mark Murdock on April 26, 2011 - 11:47 AM

    Good thoughts, man! I think for most of us it’s simpler than avoiding pain, it’s avoiding unpleasantness of any kind. It’s avoiding the uncomfortable, the awkward, the weird. It’s avoiding disapproval and disagreement and conflict. These are the things that often have held me back.

    • #2 by Dave Kirby on April 26, 2011 - 1:32 PM

      Yeah, me too. But I hope this is the beginning of a new life goal, one that causes me to overcome my fear and discomfort in order to see God’s promises come true. I was just reading about Abraham, and how, just before God finally fulfilled the promise of a son, he was required to go through the pain of circumcision. It’s like that final hurdle of overcoming fear and self-preservation before I can finally see the promise fulfilled.

      I might have to write about that! 🙂

  2. #3 by Erica on August 16, 2011 - 2:23 PM

    As someone who has suffered greatly with pain and disability in a society where those who appear to struggle and often looked down upon — I can identify with embracing pain that God allows in my life for His purposes. It is all for my good and for His glory. I know many people who have suffered to a much greater extent than I do physically and also know those who have suffered much less than me.

    I think I would take this message to another level to say that the extent of my life’s goal should be to know Him and enjoy Him forever – whether the path He takes me on involves physical suffering or not. I think that sometimes it is His will for people to physically suffer on this earth and sometimes it is His will that they do not continue to suffer. If it was always His will that people suffer physically, He would not have healed people and relieved them from physical pain.

    Sometimes we go through pain because He brought it directly in our lives to strengthen our relationship with Him and to glorify Himself in the process. (And for the greater good of helping others in ways we otherwise would not have helped – like with your friend.) What a ministry God has wrought out of her disability! I know someone who suffers from physical disability and believes that God’s plan for her is to remain disabled in order to minister to others who are disabled. That is her calling.

    Other times, I think we go through physical pain due to our own choices and suffer the consequences of His natural laws. Part of what has plagued me is a direct result of not making wise food choices — ones that He intended for man. I have been getting incredible relief by making better, healthier choices which has enabled me to do the work He has set before me — the work to which He has called me to do. So I don’t think seeking relief is wrong in all situations – I believe that it is not a good thing to run from pain if His purpose is to be glorified in the midst of the pain. (I have that kind of pain going, too.)

    Sometimes, relief is His plan. Sometimes, pain is His plan. I think rather than seeking relief, we need to seek Him (and embrace His choice for us). If we truly seek Him, He will direct our paths and give us wisdom to navigate suffering in a way that will glorify Him.

    Erica

    • #4 by Dave Kirby on August 16, 2011 - 11:06 PM

      Excellent wisdom, common sense, and insight. You are a person who has been deepened by pain. I’m grateful to benefit from the lessons you have learned through suffering.

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