This summer, I was struck by a heaviness engulfing many church members, yea, even pastors. The horror of worldwide crises was eclipsed by the shock of national tragedies that, in turn, was overshadowed by the persistence of personal pain. With all that’s taking place globally and personally, I’ve asked myself, How do we get through our pain?
Pushing through pain
This summer, my wife, Pattiejean, and I rewatched one of our favorite Christian productions. Overcomer showcases a high school student named Hannah, for whom a running field proved the showdown for her personal struggles. Hannah’s estranged and hospitalized father coaches her through a race remotely. “Even if your legs start to hurt,” her father says, “don’t slow down. That can make them hurt even more. Keep your pace and push through.”1
Physical therapists tell us, though, that pushing through pain may not be advisable. “We’ve been hearing it all our lives, in different ways: push through the pain. But is that a good idea?
“Pain is an indicator that something is amiss. It may indicate overuse, a substitution pattern of muscle activity or poor joint mechanics.”2 So how do we get through our pain?
Playing through pain
As pastors, we see marriages in pain. Pastoral marriages don’t get a pass either. I’ve looked with interest as couples experience the euphoria of wedding-day bliss. I’ve observed with heartache as marriages exchange ecstasy for agony. I’ve watched with intrigue as couples wrestle with whether to stay or go and I’ve asked myself, What’s the answer? What do sportspersons do—just keep playing?
Therapists advise against playing through pain. “Despite what you may have heard, ‘Playing through pain’ is a bad idea. It can put an athlete at risk for a more serious injury. At the very least, the longer that pain continues without care, the more challenging it often is to treat.”3 So how do we get through our pain?
Persevering through pain
I’ve settled on persevering through pain. Therapists, I believe I have the Bible on my side: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3, NKJV).
I witnessed a pastoral ordination and a pastoral commissioning service this summer. Both services addressed enduring pain in ministry. The ordination service pondered the question, How do you cope when the vision fails? How do you survive when what you thought was going to happen does not happen? When you thought “your children are going to grow up and they’re going to church school, then they’re going to graduate from there and then they’re going to marry somebody with a degree behind their name and they’re going to give you beautiful grandchildren. And then you’ve got to be sitting in court with them, when the vision fails! . . . When you stand before God and promise God and men that you will love a certain person forever and a day, and then years come and you’re talking to lawyers about who gets to take what piece of furniture and who will see the children on what weekend, when the vision fails!”4
The speaker for the commissioning service declared, “There is only one big chair in your ministry. You don’t sit on it; it is Jesus who sits on that big chair. . . . You need to serve with distinction. Serve the rich and serve the poor. . . . Serve those with positions and those who don’t have positions. Serve everybody, even those who will go against you and criticize you, because even your detractors will need somebody to bury them.”5
Pastoral pain may not be avoided, but it must be endured. It’s proof that God is at work in our ministry. So, Press along saints, press along, in God’s own way. Press along saints, press along, in God’s own way. Persecution we must bear, trials and crosses in our way. For the hotter the battle, the sweeter the victory!6
- “Overcomer (2019) - Father Coaches Daughter Scene (6/10) | Movieclips,” YouTube video, 3:22, January 27, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFHudGWd7VU. Listen at 2:30.
- Symmetry Physical Therapy, “Should You ‘Push Through the Pain’?” https://symmetryptaustin.com/should-you-push-through-the-pain/.
- Symmetry Physical Therapy.
- William Nick Taliaferro, in “Allegheny East Conference Camp Meeting 2022: Ordination & Concert,” YouTube video, 3:51:41, July 2, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-av0Mxx26Q&t=3323s. Listen at 54:05.
- James Yansen, in “2022-07-02 | Bermuda Conference Camp Meeting – Commissioning Service,” YouTube video, 2:37:11, July 2, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbxCSALexj0&t=5526s. Listen at 1:31:12.
- “Press Along Saints.” https://gospelchoruses.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/press-along-saints/.