“No Pain, No Gain” is the mantra frequently heard during physiotherapy or exercise class. It’s not a call for great physical suffering, but a recognition that building muscle mass or endurance is demanding. The body is pushed to its limits, and just a little beyond, causing shortness of breath or sore muscles or both. The pain is not anexperience of suffering caused unduly. It is a reaction to stress imposed carefully and willingly
Learning is not necessarily painful, but there is stress and discomfort involved. I learned math by memorizing the “Times Tables” along with repeated, and increasingly complicated, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division exercises. They were time consuming and a bit frustrating but it was the price to be paid for learning and mastering new things. “No Pain, No Gain” certainly applies to learning.
Growing and maturing from childhood also features the “No Pain, No Gain” theory. It is through the experience of loss, or struggling with change or learning to get along with others that we develop wisdom, understanding and strength. Tears, anger, exuberant joy, complete confusion or other emotions are not only a healthy way to express ourselves, reflection on their cause and effects help us learn how to manage them so that they become a healthy part of our existence rather than something that drags us down or causes us to react inappropriately. “No Pain, No Gain” is part of growing up.
The “No Pain, No Gain” concept even applies in a healthy faith life. The Bible and the life of Christ are not simple, straightforward, things. There are complex ideas and difficult events. Dealing with the violence of the Hebrew Kings, or the complexity of Mosaic law is challenging to say the least. Getting a grasp of the Christ who is not always gentle, meek and mild should cause us to pause and reflect in order to fully grasp who He is and how best to follow Him. The letters that follow the Gospels are equally challenging, as they not only guide us how to live, but also express concepts that don’t always apply to our modern context. “No Pain, No Gain” is true for learning about and understanding, who and what we are as God’s children through Christ.
Following Jesus is also a “No Pain, No Gain” experience because His calls for mercy, love and justice are so often unheard and unheeded. Seeing the poor made even poorer by our economic system, hearing the cries from the Black Lives Matter or Me Too movements, seeing the world’s beauty ravaged by human greed and ignorance is painful and heartbreaking. Yet out of that heartbreak we should find the courage to change unjust systems and start living as part of Earth’s great ecosystem rather than its masters. For followers of Jesus, “No Pain, No Gain” is a part of life…
To follow Jesus means loving others even when we think they don’t deserve. It’s giving up our treasures, time and talent when they become our idols. It’s letting God’s will overrule ours when our talk is bigger than our actions.
“No Pain, No Gain”. It’s a challenging idea indeed. However, if we are to be the best God made us to be, it is one we must not only accept, but embrace.