What To Do When Everything Hurts
- June 18, 2018
- Joe Danehower
I have a tendency to overpromise and underdeliver – even in my own seemingly benign decisions. It’s never out of malicious intent, just the brood of irrational optimism and a misguided perception of my own competence. A few weeks back, this strange inner complex drove me to Yosemite Valley intent on hiking 24 miles and a cumulative 14,000 feet of elevation change in one day. I knew this was an ambitious idea, so much so that I shied away from telling most people my plan. They would think I was crazy, and my irrational optimism didn’t want to hear it. So I set out at sunrise, laughably overconfident in how the day would go…
At the midpoint of my hike, as I sat on top of Cloud’s Rest overlooking the evergreen valley surrounded by granite giants, I could see where my hike would end – another 12 miles down and back up to Glacier Point across the valley. This would have been a doable task had I spent the previous month preparing, but instead every joint in my desk jockey body seared with pain. In the moment, making it to my car and back to San Francisco to catch a flight in the morning seemed impossible. Standing hurt. Walking hurt. Everything hurt.
But soon the obvious became clear; every minute I sat waiting was another moment spent further from where I needed to be. The sun would not stop. The body aches would not stop. The best thing for me was to take the next step, even though it was painful. Sitting and waiting would bring me no closer to resolution.
Coming to this simple conclusion about a painful hike through a beautiful place may seem trivial in many ways, but it’s impossible to not see how the spirit of this situation works at the soul level of our lives as well.
No one gets through life unscathed. We all find ourselves in situations where comfort, rest, or resolution are far too many miles away. Relationships die. Careers fail. Health fades. Debt suffocates. Depression cripples. Rejection crushes. Addiction strangles. Abuse haunts. We know the weight of suffering all too well. We know it in the present, and we know how it can linger and bruise even after the painful circumstance has passed. All we want is rest and resolution, but it so often lies at the end of a series of hard, painful, and uncomfortable steps.
This is where it is human to idle. When everything hurts, it is easy to lie down or even run from the source of pain. We shortcut resolution with denial and distraction. We let disagreements simmer in resentment, ignore the chaos in our lives, and grow numb to the hope of anything every getting better. Our unwillingness to move compounds the problem; hesitation to take the next painful step only denies us the resolution we seek. If we only consider the present, we stay stuck.
But the present is not our only reality. We can choose to remember a greater and future hope. One so real it is able to cross time and bear its weight upon the present.
For me that day, it was remembering the gatorade and advil I had left in the car.
For me throughout my life? While sitting amidst the carnage of my own mistakes and broken relationships, it was remembering I can affirm another by giving them the dignity of apology and space to heal from what I had done. It was remembering my own sin and self loathing is never greater than the God who treasures me. Today, it is fighting to remember purpose in the movement of Jesus outside of myself when depression pulls my gaze inward.
For you? It may be painful and a long way off, but resolution and rest are real. It may not come tomorrow, or in a month or a year, but you can take the first uncomfortable step now. It is the series of willful acts to choose the uncomfortable in pursuit of honest resolution that breathes a fuller life into existence.
We know this, because Jesus himself did it. He trudged painful step after step to come near to us when we could walk no more ourselves. When everything hurt, He got up and kept going, and because of this we have a hope no present reality can consume. That hope should never only live inside of us, but grow ever more tangible as we move into the uncomfortable and often ignored spaces in our lives. It is never easy, but what lies ahead is worth every painful step.