“I wish it was easy.”
“I wish it was easier.”
“I wish I didn’t have to put in all this work.”
Four phrases that I often uttered as an athlete during pre-season workouts. Four phrases that I still hear athletes say today as I coach. Pre-season is not easy. Athletes are asked to focus on parts of their development that appear to have nothing to do with the sport they love.
“What do mile runs have to do with my ability to make jump shots?”
“How can sprints possibly be tied to cutting off the player I’m guarding?”
“Agility drills? I never zig-zag like this during a basketball game.”
“Plyometrics? When will I ever jump on a box in the 4th quarter?”
Many a basketball player, or athlete, has found themselves wanting to give up in the middle of a pre-season conditioning drill because they are physically fatigued, are in pain, and do not understand that, if properly built upon, hard work pays off. What does a basketball player, or any athlete, do when pre-season conditioning gets tough? They lean in. They embrace it. They believe that the pain and hard work has a purpose.
In life, I sometimes find myself saying, “I wish this were easier.” “This” could be my role as a pastor, being a parent, being a husband, being a friend, being a coach, being a doctoral student, etc. I have often thought that if “this” were easier, my life would be better.
However, the older I get, I am finding myself starting to say a different prayer in the midst of pain, “Lord, use this pain to teach me what it is you want me to learn.” There are still many, many days where I still say, “I wish this were easier” or “This sucks.” But, the older I get, the more I believe that growth is not possible without experiencing pain and hard work. And, I believe that God primarily uses pain to grow us.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)
That athlete on the track during pre-season who is tired of sprinting—the pain and hard work will pay off by increasing their endurance.
The parents who are wrestling through a tough parenting season with a difficult child—the pain and hard work will pay off by increasing their endurance.
The pastor who is fighting battles from all sides—the pain and hard work will pay off by increasing their endurance.
Pre-season workouts could be easier, but there would be no increase of endurance.
Life could be easier, but there would be no increase of endurance.
So, when, as a point guard, parent, pastor, or spouse, life is full of hard work and pain, lean in because you are in the blessed crucible of growth.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.