by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
I never look forward to walking the dog. Each morning, as my alarm goes off, Sasha paws eagerly at the side of my bed, anxious for our daily constitutional to begin. I longingly glance at the coffee maker on the way out and give a regretful sigh as we emerge through the front door into the great outdoors.
Weather conditions can be uncomfortable– the winter air is bitingly cold and the summer air too warm and humid. But that’s not the worst of my discomfort. My neurotic dog excitedly barks at the sight of any other dog along the way and practically pulls me off my feet in her frenzy. It’s downright embarrassing. (A neighbor once condescendingly informed me I should get her formal training. I quickly assured her that we had: this is Sasha, trained, I laughingly tried to explain. She was not amused.)
One thing on our walks remains a constant: I am always delighted to round the last bend and spot my house, knowing the effort is at an end.
Yet, despite the negatives, I know the walks are so good for me. My doctor called to report my cholesterol is down, along with my blood pressure. She specifically requested I pat the dog on the head for her.
It is psychologically good for me as well. Spending a half-hour in the sunshine boosts my morale. I have gotten to know many neighbors while walking in the community that I would never have otherwise met. The splendor of nature and the gradual change of seasons always lifts my spirits and each day the beautiful surroundings in which we live uplifts me.
But even knowing all this, getting up and out the door never gets easier. On any given morning, I would much rather roll over and go back to sleep. Sad to say, I have not once hopped out of bed in eager anticipation. Yet once it is accomplished, I am never sorry I did it.
My dread of exercise is similar to my dread of painful situations. No one looks forward to those. But it is in those times that God does His best transforming work. The metaphors that we use to describe God’s process for change are largely painful in character: like the hot flames of a refiner’s fire or chipping off the rough edges of rock to reveal the beauty of a diamond within. Transformation seems to almost always bring pain to the one being transformed.
But always the outcome is worth the struggle.
Hard circumstances are frequently not all bad, but mostly just hard. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Light and momentary troubles? Several times Paul was beaten to within an inch of his life and left for dead! He had been imprisoned, thrown out of synagogues, faced angry mobs, and rejected by his own kinsmen. Not so light, right?
My guess is that he classified his suffering as light and momentary only in comparison to the resulting glory they would accomplish. The glory being produced in him was eternal. And worth the momentary pain.
We can count on facing tough circumstances many times in our lives. But one thing is certain: the destination will be worth the journey, even when forced to travel a rocky, pothole-filled road. We might not ever voluntarily choose that path, but even as we place one foot in front of the other, we can know we will not be sorry when the trip has reached its conclusion. The outcome is worth the struggle.
Our God is faithful and will not waste one minute of our pain. He will reap the benefits from it for us and use every moment to make us better reflectors of His glory. He is transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. Just like the faithful God that He is.
“For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our mortal flesh… Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:11, 16
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Join the conversation: How has God used pain to transform you?