The Bare Soul - May 19, 2013
The Wisdom of Pain

Ecclesiastes 1:18 - Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.

As I have learned throughout my running career, pushing through pain can be a tutor allowing a runner to press on to the next level. However, it can also be an important indicator that one has pushed too hard. To manage pain, some athletes take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs for short. One of the most common is ibuprofen. Earlier in my running disciplines, I would quite often take ibuprofen to ignore a nagging pain. I wanted to train longer and harder and the NSAID allowed me to do this. However, there is often a price to pay for overtraining and neglecting the wisdom of pain. God has engineered the human body beautifully with various bells and whistles that tell us when we are operating outside its safety zone.  Years later, I am experiencing the affects of not heeding these warnings. Though I can still run, I do not run as fast or as long as I used to because of nagging knee injuries. If I would have heeded the pain and the warning signs my body was trying to tell me, then I might be running more comfortably today. Pain is there for a reason and it is up to us to discern its purpose.

While Solomon was not a runner (that we know of), he certainly experienced pain in the race that he eventually ran. This certainly was not the course that God had intended. We know from the word of God that his early life was filled with splendor, riches, and wisdom beyond any human that had previously lived. Unfortunately, when Solomon turned from God to a reprobate lifestyle his wisdom did not likewise depart. The peace he had enjoyed in his early life was now fleeting as he felt much unrest, experiencing the futility of life without the Lord. The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Therefore, Solomon suffered great despair because of his knowledge and the hopelessness of living without the Giver of Life.

Many years ago, as a backslidden Christian who could not get free from his alcoholism, I understood Solomon's dilemma. As we used to say in Alcoholics Anonymous, "A head full of the Big Book and a belly full of booze is a bad mix." In other words, when we know the right way to go, and don't do it because of powerlessness, this causes a deep, dark hopelessness. Often, this is characteristic of possessing knowledge of the right way and not having the wherewithal to do anything about it.

When I fell away from God, I thought it would be a simple matter of correcting my course and finding my way back to the Lord. I thought I could slip back into God's good graces in a rather cavalier manner. However, even though God's gifts are "irrevocable," they often will not be coupled with the grace of God to live in a victorious manner when we desire. Often, the sad truth is that we will have to reap what we have sown. This may mean living in the squalor that we have created for a season until we finally come to our senses (Luke 15:17).

Solomon found the gift of repentance once again, as I once again found the gift of sobriety and new life in Jesus Christ. However, there are many who will continue to struggle as their "increasing knowledge results in increasing pain. Attempting to anesthetize the pain will often give us a false sense of hope and will not allow us to genuinely know when we have veered off course. However, when we finally do realize we have strayed, there is hope. Take heart, beloved, and continue to cry out to God. He is the only One who can make peace between our knowledge and His wisdom to surrender.

Father, though pain is uncomfortable it is often necessary. Keep us on Your straight and narrow path by goading us with pain when necessary, allowing us to stay humble. Grant us the wisdom of knowing how the pain we experience is meant to help and guide us to the things You have meant to give us life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

 

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