Guest blog by Brian Jones
Our goal as disciples of Jesus shouldn’t be to eliminate pain.
Our goal should be to craft the kind of life that is invincible to pain.
This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
His challenge wasn’t to seek martyrdom – though that could certainly be part of the faith journey for a few – it was about being willing to endure pain as a disciple for his mission.
For disciples, being invincible to pain means they train themselves to view…
- cancer as an opportunity
- depression as a chance to view the world differently
- work problems as openings to practice virtue
- financial struggles as occasions to reassess what’s really important
- relationship problems as a chance to learn something new
Disciples allow nothing they face to deter them.
Instead of spending their days doing everything in their power to avoid all discomfort, they train themselves to no longer need comfort to function.
Think for a moment about how much of our lives is spent avoiding pain.
How much money have we spent on medications to drown out suffering?
How many vacations have we taken to distract us from our everyday problems?
Going to therapy to quickly stop a heartache instead of partnering with a therapist to teach us to sit with the pain a while and learn from it?
To be honest, I’ve wasted so much of my life trying to avoid pain that I have essentially earned a doctorate in pain avoidance. But that’s changing.
In my latest book Finding Favor: God’s Blessings Beyond Health, Wealth, and Happiness, I share that…“Between the ages of eighteen and forty-two, I could count on one hand the number of times I went to the doctor. But when I turned forty-three, for no apparent reason, I developed a severe neurological condition that triggered nonstop debilitating pain in the back-left base of my head. I went to three different specialists, and they were all baffled. Unable to find a cause, they put me on antiseizure medication.
Over the next five years, I underwent three surgeries, five MRIs, three CAT scans, and more ultrasounds and EKGs than I can remember. I had nine different rounds of medication administered via epidural injections in my back and neck. I lost most of the hearing in my left ear. I gained thirty pounds. I became depressed. I suffered extreme panic attacks. I went on an antidepressant. The pain became so severe that I could only sleep in forty-five-minute stretches before being jolted out of bed in pain.
My life verse throughout all of this was Job 13:15: “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him.”
The turning point for me came when I realized that the Bible teaches that pain can be a blessing.
Pain is to be embraced.
Lessons are to be teased out of these experiences. They come to us to instruct in the way of Jesus.
Suffering makes disciples better, not worse.
One morning I woke up and simply said, “I am completely healed” and began thanking Jesus for what I was going through. Within one year, many of my symptoms disappeared. Those that didn’t have stayed on as my personal trainer in being invincible to pain. What I was truly healed of was my need for comfort above my need for Jesus.
Think about it: if pain can’t stop you, what does the enemy have left to throw at you?
NEXT WEEK: PART II: “How to Train Yourself to be Invincible to Pain”
Brian is the founding Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Royersford, PA, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, and the author of four books. He’s also my pastor and most important of all, a huge Buckeye fan! Connect with him at https://brianjones.com