(by Shannon Jackson – check her out… 

Once again I heard my Pastor deliver a message that pierced my soul. A message about a reality we face almost daily, yet not many want to talk about or accept it’s necessity. A message, ultimately of hope, but focused on the lonely road to get there. A road we all travel, but few navigate on purpose or successfully. There is no way to get to our destination without traveling this road, the road paved with pain.

My oldest child is 19 years old. She is beautiful, talented, and full of life. Before she was born I remember all the wonderful women who would encourage me, give me advice, and help me plan for her arrival; all while looking me in the eyes and lying to me! I clearly remember hearing these words, “Don’t worry about it. It will hurt a little, but when she arrives, you won’t remember the pain. You will be so overwhelmed with love for her that you forget all about the pain.” Lies! I clearly remember the pain! I remember the non-medicated  pain of bringing all four of my children into the world. Our lives begin in pain. Although I do not remember the pain of my own arrival, I clearly recall, in vivid technicolor, the arrival of my children. I remember squeezing my mother’s hand so hard that I bruised her, I remember thinking there was no way I was strong enough to handle this. The fourth time, I remember thinking I must be absolutely be out of my mind to do this AGAIN! Why on earth would any sane person CHOOSE to have children this way?! To be completely honest, I wouldn’t change a single moment. I love my children in a way my husband can never understand, because I embraced them through the pain.

The road of pain stinks! It is not fun. I can’t think of a single person who wakes up in the morning and says, “I wonder what painful experience I can endure today?” No one joyfully anticipates the possibility that the portion of road you travel today could be worse than any you’ve experienced thus far. But what would happen if we did? How would the productivity of our lives change if we began to wonder if today would be the day of my greatest pain? Will today be the day I birth the dreams planted inside me? Will today be the day I embrace those dreams through the pain? With my children growing inside my womb, I was limited in my productivity. They were hidden from the world. Each day of the last two weeks before their arrival I would wonder, pray and hope it would be the day. The anticipation was tangible, it drove me, and somehow the idea of the pain didn’t matter. The anticipation didn’t lessen the pain, it drove me to pursue the birth. I knew their potential could only be fulfilled on this side of the pain.

I think the same is true in our relationship with God. My pastor made this powerful statement Sunday, “God can not use a person greatly until they He allows them to experience pain significantly.” Every person in the Bible and in history who have accomplished great things for God have done so by walking the road of pain. (Take a moment to read Hebrews chapter and 11 and you can quickly see a list of those whose pain strengthened their faith.) Even the Son of God had to experience pain on a level we can never fathom. Why? He knew we could only arrive at our potential on the other side of the pain. His painful endurance of the Cross unlocks the key to our surviving the pain. When we learn to praise Him because of what He endured, we can pursue. The pain may not be lessened, but our endurance is multiplied. My Pastor said it this way, “Praise will take you places nothing else can. You will never walk through anything that your praise has not prepared you for.”

Life is full of pain. Painful words, painful experiences, physical pain, emotional pain, church pain (the most debilitating pain), and the list goes on and on. The joy comes in knowing that I am defined by my pain but by my praise. Today I am not flooded with resentment when I look at my children because of the pain they brought to me. I can recall the pain if and when I choose to. The same is true for my painful moments in life. I can choose to focus on the pain or I can choose to praise my way through it. If I lived everyday only remembering the painful births of my children I would miss the moments of joy they bring. The moments of their success when I can cheer and their painful moments through which I can encourage. God allows pain. He knows it will shape us. He allowed the road to be paved with it because He knows our potential is released through it. What the enemy would use to destroy us, God says, “Bring it on! This one’s got potential!”

I encourage you today to learn to praise your way through your pain. It’s going to come so you might as well praise your way through it. I know that sounds like a crazy, impossible task, but YOU CAN DO IT! Even if all the strength you can muster is to whisper a one sentence statement of gratitude, go for it! Before you know it you will be screaming that statement at the top of your spiritual lungs. Know that God sees your potential. He has given you the dreams and desires that are growing, tumbling and doing somersaults inside of you. He knows which painful experiences you must endure to solidify your faith and release your potential. He loves you! Now grab His hand, squeeze it until you bruise it, grit your teeth and PUSH!

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