Growing Pains of Life

When we think of a naturally painful period for us, one of the first immediate thoughts is puberty. For women, pregnancy. For men by a greater proportion, perilous labor. Aside from these specific conditions of living, there is still the general pangs of growing up, even far into old age. Our bodies have to break down in order to increase or maintain its strength when healing. Our minds have to be stretched by lesser known ideas and concepts to improve understanding. The soul/heart (for simplicity) has to withstand the trials of the day, so we become more resilient to the state of our individual and shared sinful state of reality. Comfort, pain, and healing are fundamental to man, either as a part of growth or for the sake of thriving in a world corrupted by evil.

Childhood is no less of these cycles. In fact, in some ways it is the most fragile time due to the higher frequency of them, for every year a boy or girl enters a new phase distinguishable from the previous. As much as they can be guided by loving parents and elders, they still need to overcome obstacles alone. If they are not encouraged or pushed to deal with them, that part of their life remains more infantile. Those not brought up to overcome physical pain resemble a babies sensitivity. Children left to be ignorant remain in child like dependence. No personal discipline in good results in lack of distinction from evil when it comes to choices.

Ironically, adults who attempt protecting children from pain as much as possible actually compound the discomfort over the years. Mind, body, and/or spirit struggles with poor pain tolerance. Every new opportunity is overwhelming in some way. Like a new born babe, they subconsciously cling for protection. In common extreme cases, anyone who does not guard their comfort as they see fit is against them, perhaps a bitter enemy only wanting to hurt/neglect for selfish gain. The thing is they are rather useless at dealing with evil, since the lesser cruelties of the world are enough to stop them from taking constructive action. Instead, they will follow anyone who makes lofty promises, only knowing how to destroy and take, not possessing the endurance to create and sustain.

“A man must fight long and bravely against himself before he learns to master himself fully and to direct all his affections toward God. When he trusts in himself, he easily takes to human comforts. The true lover of Christ, however, who sincerely pursues virtue, does not fall back upon comfort nor seek such pleasures of sense, but prefers severe trials and hard labors for the sake of Christ. . . . Divine comfort, then, is given in order to make a man braver in enduring adversity, and temptation follows in order that he may not pride himself on the good he has done. The devil does not sleep, nor is the flesh yet dead; therefore, you must never cease your preparation for battle, because on the right and on the left are enemies who never rest.”

from: chapter 9 of Book 2 Imitation of Christ by Thomas a ‘Kempis (1427)

One story from my childhood. I did a season of pewee football, lasting through the initial conditioning, never having experienced so much strain. It was surprising how much my very young body could do. The first day of practicing tackles with our gear, I was shocked by the physical contact. At the half way point, I was losing nerve, making a short plea with my father to quit what seemed too much. Without hesitation, as he slapped my shoulder pads, he said, “Do not be afraid to get hit. It is a part of the game. Do not quit when it is hard. Get back out there!” Because of his care and authority I obeyed, later earning one of my two cherished helmet decals for tackling, the other for endurance running. These decisions my father made continued my course in life for over all growth. He was not going to allow his flesh and blood to stay a child forever. One day I would become a man facing the injustice of the world.

We do not grow stronger just for our own sake. Heck, for mere security in life, it seems easier just to hide behind the abilities of others. More often than not, those who do so think too highly of their own mediocre ability, rarely having tested it through daily trial and error. No, we strive in spite of pain if not misery for things and people beyond our own comfort. It is how God made us. After all, did He not become a vulnerable mortal through Jesus Christ, humbling surviving then thriving into adulthood, prepared to wrestle with bodily suffering, fallen mankind, and the offerings of Satan. How tragic it is that we do not want to submit to the will of God, though we would rather be weak as well as a slave to sin, rather than strong and free under Christ’s sovereignty.

With pride we are angry that we have to experience pain. We are fine just the way we are, right? Well, considering most of our hurt is self inflected, lashed on others, and decided by those near us or far, I would say, we are not quite good as we believe. We have the inclination to behave childishly, because we lack the maturity God has called us to, being a living sacrifice, as opposed to demanding life from other men to cushion ours. Thus it is natural for some kind of hurt to truly give; discomfort comes with what is acquired to share. Those who avoid pain do not make decent givers of life.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
and He scourges every son He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”

Hebrews 12:1-13

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