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Ryan Butterworth is a great guy and a gifted physiotherapist. Because of this, he is also a real pain. Well, he causes me a lot of pain. And, as I am learning, that is a good thing.

For several months, I’ve struggled with pain because of my right hamstring. The technical diagnosis is proximal hamstring tendinopathy. The trade name is, “Ouch!” Sometimes when running, it’s so severe that I feel like I’m merely dragging my leg. My wife is confused why I keep running. I think “stupid” is an adjective she has used frequently. Nevertheless, though the condition can last many, many months, with Ryan’s painful help I am seeing some improvement.

When he treats me, well, let’s just say that he knows the location of the “sweet spot,” and sweet it is not! But I’ve learned that the only way he can provide real help to my problem is to cause me some real pain. He knows he is being effective by my grimaces. When I wince, he knows he is doing a good job. Basically, the more pain I feel, the closer I am to being healed. After my most recent session, I’m sure that healing must be just around the corner.

What is true of my life physically is also true of my life spiritually. Sinful attitudes and sinful attitudes are, in the end, painful. Therefore God sends another kind of pain in order to free me from the wrong kind. In other words, pain is necessary for my ongoing sanctification. The author of Hebrews understood this. He wrote,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?… we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

(Hebrews 12:5–11)

To summarise, God gives us pain for our good. He knows our “sweet spot” and therefore knows the precise point where to apply the painful pressure. He wants us to run the race of persevering faith with confidence and freedom rather than merely dragging our spiritual legs through life (Hebrews 12:1–2). As the Great Physician, he knows that healing often requires hurting.

Many in our church are hurting. Some have experienced profound loss, some are experiencing the pain of relational hurt, or the pain of physical suffering, or the pain of unemployment, or other types of very real pain. Perhaps in your pain you feel that you are merely limping along, dragging your spiritual legs, looking for some relief. The good news is that God loves us and, being a good Father, is working towards our good. The Lord not only knows what we need but is also the one who can provide the healing. He is alone is able to restore us to the image of his dear Son. This is what he is up to. This is why he brings about the pain. This is why our pain is real: because the goal is also real.

Brothers and sisters, let’s resolve that, by the grace of God, we will not despise his chastening hand as he applies the pressure of real pain. Rather, let us trust him to use that pain to bring about the real spiritual healing we so desperately need.

Hurting, but hopeful with you,