What kind of pain for you? Hint (“We are called to the cross, not to a cruise.”)
I am coming to the end of The Beautiful Fight by Gary Thomas and he has increased the challenge in these last chapters.
“Pain in this world is a foregone conclusion. The only question is whether we choose to live a life of redemptive pain or self-destructive pain.” 200
He is saying that there will be a cost if we move towards the transformed life in Christ. The only alternative is that we move away from God and Thomas warns that we will pay a cost for rebellious or disobedient choices. He writes,
“Having faced the personal misery and relational pain of doing things my own way, having experienced the futility of living life to be noticed, and having carried the heavy burden of making pleasure my idol, I’m far more willing to pay the price for transformation.” 200
Putting it another way, he says, “When I refuse to face the pain of transformation, eventually I must endure the misery of my immaturity.” 199
He explains what he means by paying the price:
“It means we need to start learning, listening, and surrendering. Don’t waste your physical ills; learn from them. What does it matter whether God causes them or merely permits them. . . . Don’t run from social frustration or relational confusion; be humbled in the midst of it. Learn how to love in the messiness of human relationships–confronting, forgiving, and asking to be forgiven. Don’t make a hassle-free life your primary pursuit; instead listen to God to discern how he is using these interruptions to cleanse your soul and purify your attitudes. ” 207
Thomas says that the process (and he really emphasizes that this is a process) of transformation requires a fear of God, the virtue of humility, surrender, perseverance and gratitude. He concludes his 14th chapter with these powerful words.
If I recognize that I am not like Christ, that I am proud where he is humble, that I am selfish where he is sacrificial, that I am greedy where he is giving, that I am lustful where he is pure, then mustn’t I be broken before I can be remade?
Of course I must. And so must you.
The breaking can be painful, even excruciating. It hurts to die to certain dreams and desires. It sometimes feels as though we’re being ripped apart when we let something go. But the pain is a good pain, the difficult journey is a good journey, and the Beautiful Fight is still a beautiful fight.