I was watching the movie “The Equalizer 2” with Denzel Washington as the lead actor. Denzel is awesome in this movie. He starts off on a train, with a room full of gangsters with thick accents, who had just kidnapped a little girl. There are, like, nine of them and only one of Denzel. He confronts the leader of the gang with his transgressions and gives him a chance to hand over the girl with no consequences.
Of course, he is not going to do that because there are 10 of them and one of Denzel. So, like every other bad guy, he walks off and leaves his goons to dispose of Denzel. Denzel very aggressively kills all nine of the goons in spectacular fashion and once again sits in front of the gang leader. Then, he says the best line I have heard in a while: “There are two kinds of pain, a pain that hurts and a pain that alters. Today, you have a choice.” Did I mention that Denzel is awesome in this movie?
That line resonated with me because it makes you answer the question of who you are. Are you a victim or a survivor? A glass-half-empty or glass-half-full person? Sociologists see it all the time with siblings who grow up in the same broken, abusive families and turn out as complete opposites. One of them continues the cycle of brokenness and abuse and the other is determined to live the opposite way and do something positive with their life. Pain that hurts and pain that alters.
If you are like me, my entire life can be summed up in one sentence: “It didn’t go as planned, and that’s OK!” We aren’t talking about physical pain today, we are talking about emotional pain. The “we just found out we lost the baby after trying for 10 years” pain. The “we just found out everyone’s favorite uncle has been abusing all of the little girls in my family” pain. The “my spouse just left me for another person after 20 years of marriage” pain. It’s going to hurt. But those serious pains, the ones that alter our entire life, how do we deal with them?
Jesus suffered through pain that alters. It probably started with a conversation like this: (I am just guessing. Bible historians please do not email me with complaints.)
Judas: Hey, Jesus. Still on for Friday?
Judas: Yeah, the last supper.
Jesus: The what?
Judas: Supper…just normal supper with the fellas.
If you don’t know the rest of the story I recommend that you watch a critically-acclaimed movie called “The Passion of Christ.” It portrays in very graphic detail pain that alters. You do not have to deal with it alone. One of my most favorite Bible verses is Psalm 23:4, which reads: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” If I were not so averse to the pain of a needle, I would get this verse tattooed on my rib cage. It has gotten me through so much pain. Even when I felt lonely, I was never alone and never had to go through it alone. Take that pain and use it as motivation to continue with your life.
For example, I am overweight. Let’s say you are overweight and now have health problems, like I do. You can let the pain of those problems hurt, or you can let it alter your lifestyle. I am not the type to brag, but I finished my 14-day diet in three hours and 27 minutes. I tried a less painful way to escape but now I am determined. No more fad diets. I changed my eating habits. I started exercising more, and now I make better decisions. Your parents/spouse/sibling/friend/pastor hurt you? I get that. I also get that hurt people hurt people. You can let it hurt or you can bounce back, shake it off, and let God drag you forward until you are ready to walk with Him.
My wife says the most hurtful things to me all the time. Things like “let’s go for a run” and “try this sugar-free version.” This is the hard part of marriage that most people don’t talk about, but I will love her through this. I said that to say this: through much prayer and faith in God things don’t hurt me as much as they used to. That is only because I know who I am in Christ. I turn my pain into praise, a life-altering praise.