Who actually enjoys being uncomfortable? Sure, we might tolerate moments of discomfort if we know the result is worth it—things such as childbirth and physical exercise—but can anyone honestly say they enjoy discomfort, especially as they’re experiencing it?
When given the option, how many women would forgo pregnancy and childbirth if there was another, pain-free way to bring their child into this world? How many athletes would still willingly endure hours of daily training if they could get the same results sitting on the couch eating cheese puffcorn? There might be a handful of people who would, but we should question their sanity. (Seriously, I love burpees, but burpees over cheese puffcorn? Yeah, no.)
Just look at diet culture. “Take this miracle pill and within weeks you’ll lose your muffin top, all without having to put down the ice cream or pick up the dumbbells.” Our instant-results culture throws out pain, discomfort and struggle, and with it, endurance and perseverance. We have convinced ourselves to avoid challenges, instead choosing to believe lasting success and positive change can happen without hurdles. Literally all gain and no pain.
But what if there is value to discomfort? What if those moments of gritting your teeth and pressing on are the ammo you need to get you through your next challenge? What if fear of the unknown, rejection or failure kept you from trying something new? Our world would be a lot different if its history was filled with people who never took risks, always played it safe and were content to ride life out in the safe zone.
There’s a lot wrong with health and wellness culture, especially in the U.S., but there is a tinge of truth in some of its messaging. Look at the phrase, “No pain, no gain.” It can easily be misconstrued and taken to the extreme, but in its purest, simplest sense, we find truth—physical and mental.
Physical truth in that resistance training involves tearing down your muscles to build them up stronger (and oftentimes bigger). As far as mental truth, we see the resiliency it gives us. If you lifted “x” amount of weight last time, you know you can do it again, and eventually more. Therefore, when those bigger, heavier weights are staring you down, you can recall your past training and quelch the doubts. You endured the physical discomfort to make you physically stronger and the mental struggle to boost your confidence. You did it before, now do it again, even better.
The other thing about resistance training is that it’s only effective when there’s actual resistance, hence the name. If you’re pumping out 3 rounds of 20 reps as if you were lifting a carton of sandwich cookies, you need to either up your weight or your reps (not buy a bigger container of cookies). As its name obviously discloses, resistance training relies on resistance. If you don’t feel any resistance, you’re just flipping weights around like a baby with a rattle. You may think you look like you know what you’re doing and deserve an extra slice of pizza for “hitting the weights,” but in reality it’s the opposite—you look like you haven’t the faintest idea what you’re doing and you are wasting your time. No resistance, no gain.
People who change the world are those who thrive in change, discomfort and tension. They are comfortable being uncomfortable.
The moments of tension—stretching ourselves beyond our current capacity—are what lead to change, growth and character. We push ourselves at school to learn more. We push ourselves at the gym to improve our health. We push ourselves at work to get the job done, challenge ourselves and help others. It’s not about being comfortable, it’s about living your life in a way where you are always improving—improving yourself, the lives of those around you and/or the world.
People who change the world are those who thrive in change, discomfort and tension. They are comfortable being uncomfortable. That is why God puts us in uncomfortable situations and calls us to do things that make our stomachs churn. He knows they will make us stronger, bolder and more confident, in ourselves, yes, but more importantly, in Him.
Now, don’t get me wrong. God doesn’t enjoy our pain, nor did He intend for it to exist (Ez. 33:11, Lam. 3:33). Any and all pain we experience—physical, mental, relational and emotional—is the direct consequence of sin entering our world (Gen. 3:16-19). Our first parents’ disobedience and our disobedience since then created a rift between us and God, and filled it with anger, jealousy, hate, lies, sickness and death (all of which are felt and experienced by us with ourselves, each other and God). We had the choice to live a life completely free of all those things, but we chose the opposite because we thought we knew better and wanted more than the perfection we were given.
Yet, in His perfect love, mercy and grace, God gives us another option: a restored relationship with Him which will culminate in eternity with Him and free from all of sin’s effects (John 3:16, Romans 6:23). In other words, life as God originally intended prior to sin. In the meantime, God keeps us where we are to show us just how great He is, how much we need Him and how He can use us to reach others (Ps. 119:71, Rom. 5:3, 2 Cor. 1:3-4). The discomfort is rarely pleasant, but the journey and result are unmatchable (2 Cor. 4:17, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:10).
Yes, the moments that leave the biggest impression come with a good deal of pain, tension, uncertainty and discomfort. However, there is a but. But God! The pain may be great, but His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). The tension may be significant, but His peace surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). The uncertainty may be frustrating, but He promises to never leave you nor forsake you (Deut. 31:6, Joshua 1:9). The discomfort may be unpleasant, but His will leads to ultimate security (Jer. 29:11, Rom. 8:28).
Everything negative you may feel, it’s all temporary and it’s all worth it. When God is involved, there is always great gain! Just look at those whom God has used in the past, those He called by name into moments of discomfort, uncertainty and at times, physical suffering. None of them were worthy nor were they entirely equipped when they were called, but God equips the called, not calls the equipped. Not only did they grow closer to God through their experiences, they also served as great vessels through whom God blessed others.
Example #1: Moses. For one, he had a speech impediment, something he pointed out to God when He commanded him to speak on behalf of His people in front of Pharaoh (Ex. 4:10). Second, he was raised in Pharaoh’s household, not amongst his people, the Hebrews; something that caused the Hebrews to look down upon him as their leader, as if he couldn’t relate to their pain and suffering. Everything in which God called Moses was entirely new to him and not exactly his first choice when asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Yet, even with all his downfalls and discomfort, Moses obeyed God anyway. Why? Because God is worth it. Was there uncertainty? Yes. Did Moses know what he was doing? No. Was the journey easy? Um, it took the people 40 years of wandering in the wilderness to cross a distance that should have only taken them a couple months, all because they kept complaining and let their fears get the best of them (Ex. 16:2, Num. 13:25-14:12). So, yes, there was discomfort. Yes, there was uncertainty. Yes, it was challenging, but it was all worth it the moment the Hebrews finally reached the Promised Land. A great deal of pain, but even greater gain.
When God is involved, there is always great gain!
Example #2: Gideon. What was he doing when God called him to deliver His people? Hiding in a hole. Yep, you read that right, Gideon, a man who God deemed a valiant warrior, was hiding in a hole from his enemies (Judges 6:11-12). But it doesn’t stop there. After God convinced Gideon to come out of the hole and promised him He would use him to deliver the Hebrews, Gideon replied, “Come again?” He emphasized to God how he was the weakest of his family and his clan the weakest in his tribe, as if God was unaware (Judges 6:14-15). Even after God assured him of his calling, Gideon asked for not one sign, but three (Judges 6:17, 36-37, 39). Obviously Gideon wasn’t too keen on God’s purpose for him, but when he finally said yes, God used him in mighty ways, faults and all! Gideon was by no means perfect, but he never needed to be. God is perfect, as is His plan. All we must do is follow and watch Him work. Once again, plenty of pain, but even more gain.
Example #3: Matthew. As a tax collector, Matthew was hated by his fellow Jews. (Tax collectors were seen as traitors for their alliance with Rome and often overtaxed the people to line their own pockets.) However, because of his profession, Matthew was also well-established financially and protected by Rome. That is what makes his willingness to leave it all behind to follow a rogue preacher all the more incredible. Matthew’s decision literally made no human sense, but he did it anyway. Immediately after Jesus called him to be His follower, Matthew went all in (Matt. 9:9, Luke 5:28). He didn’t know where he would sleep, what or when he would eat or why Jesus had called him. All he knew was Jesus was unlike anyone else, and His words and actions were fulfilling what Jewish prophets long foretold about the awaited Messiah. Matthew knew very little about his calling, but He knew the one who called him. That’s what mattered. Whatever uncertainty, turmoil or physical pain Matthew was about to endure was smaller than a mustard seed compared with the greatness he would behold. Pain was promised, but it was nothing compared to the gain that awaited him.
God does not promise us a life free of worry, questions or pain. He actually says the opposite, especially for those who choose to follow Him (John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12). We must never lose heart though, because where the discomfort increases, so do the promises. With God, there is always immeasurable gain. Some pain, all Jesus, all gain.
So what are you waiting for? If you are willing to endure a little bit of discomfort for momentary physical gain, why are you not at least as equally willing to endure it for great spiritual gain?
When you give your “yes” to God and release your white-knuckle grip on your discomfort, you are freeing yourself to experience a foreshadowing of the glory that awaits you in eternity with Jesus (Col. 3:4, 2 Tim. 2:10). Yes, you may be ostracized, but then you will fully comprehend God’s promise when He says He will never leave you nor forsake you. Sure, you may be drained of your strength, but then you will understand how God’s strength is more than enough. Of course, you may have no idea what lies ahead, but then you will realize the only one who needs to know what is going to happen is the only One who ever does—God. You will experience all these blessings and more when you plunge heart first into a life fully committed to God. He will pour Himself into you with each step you take, so much so, you have no choice but to share it with others. There will be such a well of God’s love bubbling within your heart, it will burst from your ears, eyes, fingers and mouth. And with each act of love you dole, God will prove to you His promise that it is greater to give than to receive.
Our situations may differ, but God does not. Every time He calls you into an uncertain, tense, uncomfortable or maybe even dangerous moment, He does so with your best interest in mind and His will as the result. Life on this earth with Jesus is not easy, not in the slightest bit, but it’s worth it. The pain, the discomfort, the uncertainty, it is ALL worth it. The pain is temporary and the mountain is steep, but the gain is eternally magnificent. Take heart, my child, you will have troubles in this world, but Jesus has overcome the world. How about you join Him and start living like an overcomer now while He can still use you to reach others? The journey is bound to be messy but oh so good, and the result even greater. No one knows just how great eternity will be for those who give their lives to God, but rest assured, it’s far greater than chilling on the couch eating cheese puffcorn.
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.