Is That Pain Good or Bad?

I have been thinking a lot about the process of growth lately (mostly because I am watching three little minions grow up right under my nose and there is absolutely no way to stop them!) One of the byproducts of their growth has been growing pains in their knees and pain in their hearts as their favorite clothes and toys get put into the donate or hand-me-down piles.

Seeing this pain has me thinking about how I experience pain when I am growing as well. Sometimes when someone brings an idea to me that pushes against by previously established norms, it hurts. And when it does, I am forced to consider if what they are bringing my way is making me feel the pain of fear-based shame and guilt, or is this idea causing me to experience the pain that accompanies growth?

While followers of God are called are called to fear Him (even see Isaiah’s description of Jesus in Isaiah 11:1-3), we are not called to fear punishment, nor be shamed or guilted into performing in a different way (see 1 John 4:16-18 for a discussion about the difference between fear and love). But in all of this I am starting to come to the conclusion that God’s Love is going to cause pain in our lives as it grows a new identity in us.

Which makes sense if we are to trust what the Bible says about what is happening inside of those who have put their trust in Jesus as the Christ, the one who can rescue them from the power of sin, sickness, and death. The Apostle Paul talks about putting the old self to death and putting on a completely new self (Colossians 3:1-10), and even talks about followers of Jesus having their hearts circumcised (Romans 2:29). This renewal of the heart language that Paul uses is not a new idea! The prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah talked about God performing heart surgery hundreds of years before Paul or Jesus were on the scene (Ezekiel 11, 36; Jeremiah 31).

I looked up what open heart surgery entails (not being as familiar with it as a craniotomy), and found that what the body undergoes in order for the heart to be operated on is something else! (See https://www.healthline.com/health/open-heart-surgery#procedure for the full article.)

This is what healthline.com says goes into the 3 to 6 hour surgery:

  • The patient is given general anesthesia. This ensures that they will be asleep and pain free through the whole surgery.
  • The surgeon makes an 8- to 10-inch cut in the chest.
  • The surgeon cuts through all or part of the patient’s breastbone to expose the heart.
  • Once the heart is visible, the patient may be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. The machine moves blood away from the heart so that the surgeon can operate. Some newer procedures do not use this machine.
  • The surgeon uses a healthy vein or artery to make a new path around the blocked artery.
  • The surgeon closes the breastbone with wire, leaving the wire inside the body.
  • The original cut is stitched up.

After the anesthesia wears off, I cannot imagine that the healing process from a surgery like this would be painless!

So when someone brings a idea to you that rubs against your previously established norms about how life should work, and it causes some pain in you, don’t dismiss it out of hand because it hurts. Look into the Bible to see if the idea has Biblical backing, bring the idea to God in prayer, and discuss it with other growing believers to see how they interact with the idea. It might be that you are feeling the pain of shame, guilt, and fear that can lead you away from a right relationship with God. OR it might be that you are feeling the pain of growth because the idea has pointed to an area of sin in your life; and you are feeling shame for that sin’s presence, the guilt that accompanies going against God’s design, and the fear of God that is written on your heart by the very hand of God.

Is your pain bad? I don’t know. But I do know that there is some pain that is, and some pain that comes about as we grow more and more into the likeness of our Lord and Savior.

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