Life At Its Best: Grow stronger through adversity

By Jim Graff
June 28, 2013 at 1:28 a.m.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." It's true: going through pain often strengthens us. But that's not always the case. Sometimes, we come out of pain crippled by its effect.

My dog represents this well. When we first found him, he was covered with scars and burn marks. He looked like he hadn't eaten in days. We looked for a collar, but it was clear he didn't belong to anyone. So we loaded him up and took him home.

That night, we put out large bowls of food and water, but he wouldn't even go near them. Every time we tried to get close, he'd shrink back. It was obvious he'd been abused. He'd learned to shield off everyone around him. He was determined not to be hurt again.

It sounds funny, but many of us do the same thing. We've been hurt by people in our lives and have learned to isolate ourselves in an attempt to avoid pain.

I'm not saying that all isolation is bad. Sometimes, it's merely using caution, protecting ourselves from those who've hurt us. However, while it may be a good first step to healing, it shouldn't be our last.

God's ultimate desire for our lives is that we experience not isolation but complete restoration. He wants us to have relationships that bring joy and fulfillment into our lives. But making those connections requires learning to properly respond to pain.

First, we must protect ourselves from sources of pain. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." God knows the condition of our heart greatly affects our lives, and He's called us to protect it. We must be careful not to simply jump back into relationships that have hurt us.

Now, that doesn't mean we live in bitterness. The Bible's clear that we're to forgive others. However, it's also clear that we're to pay attention to the safety of our hearts. We must approach every situation and relationship with prayer and caution.

We should always seek wisdom from God's word and godly mentors when determining what's safe. Recognize your value and don't be afraid to separate yourself from people or things that cause you repeated pain.

Then, don't just protect yourself but connect yourself to the right people. One of the most difficult parts of cutting off wrong relationships is the aftereffect.

It's easy to feel lonely and to try to fill the void with hobbies, material things or unhealthy relationships. But we must choose to connect ourselves to people who'll bring us life.

Ask God to open your eyes to connections that will make your life better. Build relationships with people whose lives are producing the outcomes you desire for your own life. When you do, you'll begin moving past pain and into the amazing plan God has for you.

Is pain keeping you from progress? I encourage you to protect your heart and separate yourself from sources of pain. Then, build relationships with those who'll help you move forward. Start making connections today that will help you reach better destinations.

Jim Graff is the senior pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria.



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