More than anything right now, I want to be walking pain free and without crutches in a way that I haven’t done in at least four months and in a way that is better than ever before. As I lay in bed my mind says “Let’s get up and go!” but when I try it my feet say “Let’s slow down a little” I don’t like slowing down. I wanted to be at full strength a month ago. So yesterday when my physical therapist told me that I needed to use both crutches for at least two more weeks, I was frustrated to say the least.
I’m walking in a way I have never walked before in all my thirty years and even though it is a more correct way of walking, my muscles have not been trained to perform that way. The way I was walking before may have been less than desirable in form, but at this point it was more comfortable.
Isn’t that an accurate metaphor for our spiritual life? Sometimes we may not be practicing the best habits, but we become comfortable with them. Yet, the truth is that growth happens amid discomfort. “No pain, no gain” the old gym adage goes. So even though I am in the middle of what may seem like setback for me physically, I am also on the cuff of unprecedented growth and a strength I’ve never had.
We can all be upon the horizon of growth when we are willing to get a little uncomfortable. It was Jesus’ advice to the Jewish leaders of His day who had become comfortable with their status and routines, thinking these things would chart their heavenward destiny.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
“Oh, but Jesus,” you say, “the inside of the dish is dirty.” “It’s filled with thoughts that are wrong, but comfort me because they put the blame on someone else.” “The inside is filled with things I shouldn’t have done and places I should have never gone and if I can just keep that to myself, Jesus, I’d be so much more comfortable.”
But Jesus doesn’t want you to be comfortable. He invites all of His disciples into the uncomfortable “Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
What we see out each of the disciples (sans Judas) is unprecedented growth, but only in the midst of discomfort. Peter is one of the best examples. After denying Jesus three times we read this about Peter: “And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”
There was more growth in this most uncomfortable moment of Peter’s life than anything He would have experienced if He had just stayed a fishermen. Peter accepted Jesus’ call into the uncomfortable, getting out of his set-for-life career, getting out of the boat and walking on water and finally coming back stronger than ever after his biggest setback in denying Jesus.
Your setbacks are opportunities to grow too. You can be even stronger if you are willing to face the uncomfortable with courage and never give up.