No Pain, No Gain

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Godly sorrow brings repentance. . . 2 Corinthians 7:10a

A few weeks ago, my oldest son and I built a bench press for our basement out of two-by-fours, half a sheet of plywood, some old rubber matting, and, of course, a little duck tape. For less than $30 we have a functional piece of weight training equipment. I wouldn’t put 300 pounds on it, but I couldn’t lift that anyway!

A few years ago, I tore a muscle in my chest, which limited my range of motion and confidence in my ability to bench. Now, I’m back at, working out with my boys, usually with a little 80s rock blaring! 

My progress is slow and painful. 

That’s usually the way spiritual growth works for me. I’d like to say that every day I discover some new truth from God’s Word that instantly changes the way I think and helps me see God, myself, and others more clearly. I’d like to say that my journey to Christ-likeness is a steady, up and to the right curve.

It’s not.

Growth through pain has been my norm. Sometimes I grow through hard things over which I had little or no control. God has taught me a lot through cancer and career challenges. Sometimes there is pain that comes from realizing you don’t have as much control over things as you thought you did. The sooner you realize that God is in control and you’re not, the easier it is to allow God to work.

Now, I get all that in my mind. And sometimes it works that way.

But most of the time I am the cause of my own pain. I have to feel the pain of my sin before I change. Whenever we use church words like sin and repentance, we tend to think about clichéd testimonies of spiritual zero to hero growth. You know, the addict who found Jesus, the star-athlete who could never find true fulfillment until he came to Jesus, etc. 

Do these stories happen? Are they legitimate? Of course! 

Most of the time, though, at least for me, growth happens when God convicts me of my everyday pride that keeps from listening to or loving someone like Jesus would if He were in my shoes. I usually don’t see it on my own. God has to get my attention through the genuine sorrow I experience through the pain I’ve caused someone else. 

Here’s the point. The pain of sorrow has the potential to bring about real change. Imagine how Peter felt after denying Jesus? The prodigal son as he faced his father? Now these are pretty extreme examples. In our passage today, Paul is glad that his previous letter of correction has brought them sorrow. Why is he glad? Because their genuine sadness over their sin has led them to genuine change through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If I never experience any sorrow over the pain I’ve caused, I don’t believe I need to change, and I don’t. Why would I seek God’s forgiveness, God’s help, God’s healing, if I didn’t think I needed it?

It’s great when I’m able to hear His voice through something I’ve read in the Bible, a word of encouragement from a friend, or some prompting that I’ve received when I’ve taken the time to really listen during prayer. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Growing that way requires a voluntary stepping off the throne. I usually need a sharp elbow to the gut.

No pain. No gain.

For Reflection

How is God teaching you through the pain you’ve caused others?

For Prayer

Father, help me to be open to what you’re teaching me through my sorrow.

For More

Read 2 Corinthians 7