No Pain, No Gain (Like You Haven’t Heard That Before)

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that one of the connecting points for many lasting friendships in the world is the endurance of pain, together. There I was sharing a margarita with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months and the conversation drifted to the tougher moments in life and how he could relate to x-y-z and I could relate to a-b-c. Perhaps that’s too simplistic a view, but being the sinful humans we are, we’ve all been hurt and we all have hurt, others. It’s our nature to be selfish, inflict pain, and to find ourselves in the crucible of sanctification, given the choice of asking for forgiveness and saying “F*** them, they’re not worth it.” We’ve all been guilty of choosing the latter at some point in life, but it’s never led anywhere fruitful. Bitterness and hatred is only serving yourself the poisoned wine, rather than giving it to your enemy. You’d be better off attempting to kill them with kindness, wouldn’t you?

Anyways – back to my point – in a world of filtered photos, edited texts, and Facebook posts that are a highlight reel of life…we need that one person to share that one painful story of rejection, anger, pain, hatred, betrayal, longing, addiction, abuse, etc. – and that’s all it takes – and then there’s an iconic moment in every redeeming friendship – a “me too – I’ve been there as well.”

I talked with a coworker about depression this week. Opening up about my need for counseling, I found myself given the opportunity to minister to his soul and providing him with helpful options that I’ve utilized for my own personal growth and journey towards freedom from the hatred and loathing of self.

All it took was an opening up, and a “hey, me too man.”

So I guess all of that is to say, you can filter your pictures and keep your Facebook as clean and crisp as you want, but my life is about to get as real as it gets.

I’ve spent enough of my time worrying about reputation, status, money, and what other people think about me, but as long as God says “well done, my good and faithful servant” and my wife is excited to see and kiss me when I get home, then I’ve lived life well. The rest doesn’t matter and it always works out in the end.

It’s amazing how much time we spend chasing peace and perfection, and some of the most peaceful, perfect, love-filled moments are those that are spent being honest and broken, and allowing love and grace to cover over them.

Tim Keller writes of a czar who adopted a son. The adopted son had squandered his wealth and was contemplating suicide due to his recklessness… (sounds like the Prodigal Son in a way)

“Because he couldn’t cover his gambling debts, he began to embezzle from his regiments funds. One night he was sitting in the tent looking at the books and he realized that his embezzlement was about to be discovered. He could hide it no longer from the accountants. He sat drinking heavily and prepared to kill himself. He had the revolver by his side and he took a few more drinks to strengthen his resolve for the suicide. But the drink was too potent and he passed out on the table.

That night the czar was doing what he often did. Disguised as a simple soldier, he was walking through the camp and the ranks, trying to assess the morale of his army, hearing what he could hear. He walked into his foster son’s tent and saw him slumped over the book. He read the book and realized what he had done and what he was about to do.

When the young man awoke hours later, to his surprise the revolver was gone. Then he saw a letter by his hand. To his shock, it was a promissory note, “I, the czar, will pay the full amount from my own personal funds to make up the difference found in this book.” And it was sealed with the czar’s personal seal. The czar had seen the young man’s sin clearly, the full dimensions of what he had done. But he had covered and paid for the sin personally.”

The crazy part is that Jesus does this for you and me, daily. We constantly squander the wealth and the gifts that He’s provided us with. We hurt our wonderful parents with our insensitivity to their wisdom, we hurt our spouse with our stubbornness to their pleas for wiser behavior and moral conduct, we disappoint our elders as they prod us toward holiness, and we discourage our brothers with our apathy – yet Jesus PAID our debt. He said, “I see what you’ve done and I know it fully. The price has been paid. Now come back home.”

I think my life’s calling is to call other’s home. I see what you’ve done – I’ve done some stupid shit too. Now let me pay the price for you, so that you can come back home. You don’t belong in the underworld anymore. Let me provide you with some clean linens and prepare a guest-room for you. You’re an esteemed guest, a high ranking official, and adopted heir to the King – grace and peace and love covers over you.

So friends, come home. Stop running. Stop hiding. Stop chasing success. Stop searching for happiness at the bottom of the bottle or at the sound of any empty pill bottle. Stop clicking through videos and images of women that don’t belong to you (I shouldn’t even look at my wife that way). Stop shopping until you drop. Stop buying friendships with your money. Stop connecting with others through your self-loathing.

Just stop.

You were worth it. You are worth it.

So worth it that he paid your debt in full and covered you in the finest clothes. “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.” (Tim Keller, “The Meaning Of Marriage”)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our slight momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

no pain no gain

Why Do You Matter?

Did you know that the most powerful weapon in the world isn’t an atom bomb? A nuclear warhead from North Korea could potentially cause World War III, but it’s not as powerful a weapon as your tongue. The words we say can literally undo another person. (Don’t worry – this isn’t exactly my typical James 3 leaning – it’s new material.)

From the time I was a young teenager I had an obsession with other’s opinions of me and the words they had to say. I spent too much time eavesdropping and wondering what the latest gossip was about myself. I wanted people to love me. No – I NEEDED people to love me. To be sought after, desired, and respected was the ultimate goal.

At the ripe age of 18, the world was at my fingertips. Graduating high-school, I was certain the world would be handed to me on a Silver Platter – because I “deserved” it. After all, I had (almost) a 4.0 GPA at Olathe Northwest and my teachers and spiritual mentors adored me. But life presented obstacles I didn’t expect. And character flaws left unchecked developed into life-detours that delayed my personal progression toward the man God desired/desires for me to become.

So there I was – having a beer with my best-friend. We were “watching the Royals game” but deep down, we both wanted to connect on a deeper level. And if there’s anything my best-friend can do, it’s peel back my complex emotional layers and get to the core of my heart. It always takes time and a good amount of questions, but if he’s patient enough, he gets there. And I’ve always been super grateful for it.

I was expressing frustration with certain life-situations and predicaments and he started asking things like, “All cards on the table – what do you want?” I’d explain life goals like financial betterment, healthy fitness levels, and relationships going the distance. Then he’d ask, “How would that make you feel?” And then, he hit me with a bomb. I can’t remember the exact wording but it was something along the lines of, “Why do you matter?” (Brief disclaimer, he thinks I matter. He just wanted to know if and why I thought I mattered.)

To be frank – that question wrecked me. And it wasn’t his fault. It was just that in the matter of about 15 minutes, he’d brought me to a vulnerable state and brought up my self-worth. I froze. He’d found the heart of the issue, and I didn’t have an answer. I realized that as much as I wanted to say that I believed I mattered, I didn’t really believe it. The 18 year old me would be so disappointed with the 26 year old me. The world couldn’t possibly appreciate the things I’d “accomplished” with my life over the last 8 years.

I broke things down a bit more, myself. Explaining to my friend that I liked to think of my culmination of worth as a legacy. Something I’d break down into the “Funeral Effect.” (Don’t worry, it’s not as dark as it sounds.) But everyone dies. So at that moment when you die and everyone is gathering for your funeral – How many people show up? What do they say about you? Did you actually make a difference? Will there be stories of people having overcome obstacles because of me? Will hearts have been restored more often than been broken by me? Did I hold anyone back, or did I always seek their betterment over my own? The bottom line, I want to make a difference. And in that moment, I wasn’t so sure if I was fulfilling one of my deepest heart desires.

I love the man that took the time to ask me those deep questions and that put up with my word-vomit as I attempted to answer them, while also holding back potential tears as it was (surprisingly to me) a raw subject to process. He assured me that I was an Encourager, Friend, and Leader – that his world wouldn’t be the same without me and that he knew of several others that would feel the same way. He breathed life back into my fragile bones and I walked away feeling loved, encouraged, and respected.

But at the end of the day – it really comes back to his original questions of, “Why do YOU think that you matter?” And to be honest, I’m still processing that. Questions like that and goals set up to reach certain destinies have the potential to change one’s entire lifeline. I think I’m supposed to be a writer and a counselor/encourager within the context of relationships; I think that someday I may end up being a spiritual teacher in some younger people’s lives; and I’ve got dreams. But at this moment, I find myself still searching my heart for the answer to the question, “Why do you matter?” And I’d love your prayers for me as I do just that.

Justin Meyer

self worth candle