Early on in life, we discovered that we like comfort more than pain. If something frightened us, we cried in hopes that our mothers would make everything better.
And such began our lifelong pursuit to maximize pleasure and comfort while minimizing pain.
As a result we have this natural tendency to avoid scenarios where we perceive we could be harmed in some way. And if we find ourselves in a painful scenario, we do everything we can to escape the various trials and tribulations that come our way.
We do this with so many facets of our life. Many of us don’t want to work with our backs and hands, so we go to college in order to possibly get a white collar job one day. When relationships have tense moments and conflict, we choose avoidance instead of reconciliation. At work when projects end up being more than we bargained for, we begin looking for shortcuts instead of doing the right thing.
And the result of all this? Our pursuit of easy street often has a way of backfiring on us, and making our situation worse.
I believe there is a better way to live.
Instead of running from pain, difficulty, and the trials of this life, we should embrace them. In the Bible, Jesus teaches us that we need to pick up our cross as we follow Him. And instead of always seeking the easy way out, we need to choose the path that involves suffering. For only in dying to self can true life be found.
That’s not to say we should make things needlessly hard on ourselves, or become gluttons for punishment. We shouldn’t go looking for trouble. Instead we should look at the hard times in life as an opportunity. An opportunity not only to do something amazing, but to find true joy in embracing the pain of the moment.
Professional athletes know this well. They don’t just merely enjoy playing a fun game of baseball or hockey, and simply doing well at it. Rather, their love for the game drives them to do the hard thing. They eat right, push themselves in the gym, and practice relentlessly. And in the end, all the sacrifices they made and the pains they embraced may allow them to one day rejoice as a champion in their sport.
I’m not sure about you, but I want to be a champion in life. I want to live in such a way as to come out on top and win. And by “win,” I don’t mean in some grandiose manner full of “vainglory.” I’m talking about the ways of Jesus, not Donald Trump. I’m talking about conquering all the powers of death and destruction at work in this world.
And that way ultimately involves a cross. “For the joy set before Him,” the author of Hebrews says, Jesus, “endured the cross, despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Only in embracing the cross was Jesus able to find resurrection. He laid down His life and as a result, was able to pick it back up again. On the other side of the darkness of death was incredible light. Pushing through the moments of pain and humiliation in crucifixion, Jesus found ultimate joy.
Whatever you are going through in life, keep pressing on. Don’t avoid the hard thing. As Winston Churchill famously said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
Is your marriage on the rocks? Keep finding new ways to love your spouse. Having a hard time paying your bills? If possible, get a second part-time job. Are you struggling to lose weight? Then keep eating right and working out. Afraid of what tomorrow brings? Then do what you can to make today a better day. Did you receive bad news from the doctor? Fight your disease with all your might, and use your suffering as a way to help others facing the same.
And whatever you do, don’t take the easy way out. Embrace the hard thing, and you might just find joy in the same.