“Pain is a great motivator.”
She spoke the words so matter-of-factly—as if part of her daily routine. And yet in that moment my world stopped spinning as I absorbed the unintended meaning of her words.
Pain is a great motivator.
I looked around the open gym area of the physical therapy office. I was there for my second visit—finally having surrendered to the limitations and pain of the whiplash I experienced last summer (you can read about that here). For months I have treated pain with over the counter medication and heat—or attempted to ignore it all together. And for months the pain kept getting worse. My range of motion became decreased, as did my willingness to try new things or even experience simple things I used to love, like laying my head back in the sink at the hair salon!
For months my pain motivated me to medicate, withdraw, and retreat.
But all of a sudden my petite twenty-something physical therapist was offering a new way—encouraging me to allow my pain to motivate me to stretch, strengthen and work-out my neck muscles.
“Your shoulder muscles have been doing things they were never meant to do,” she reported during my first visit, while massaging the pyramid of knots from left shoulder. “They have been overcompensating for the weakness in your neck muscles from the injury you sustained. You need to retrain each of your muscles to do the job for which each was intended.”
I didn’t quite absorb her words at the moment, since I was trying not to come up off the table as she worked out each painfully tight knot.
But yesterday as I reported feeling pain while typing away on my laptop, she urged me to use the pain to remind me to do the specific stretches she had printed off for me the week before.
“When your neck starts hurting, don’t ignore it and don’t grab Motrin,” she said, her tiny frame at odds with her commanding presence. “Instead, I want you to let the pain motivate you to stretch and strengthen your muscles, ok?”
I nodded at her, but deep somewhere deep within my soul, I felt myself agreeing with God.
From her audible words, my heart heard the inaudible voice of God whisper:
I want you to allow the pain of this life to draw you to Me so that I can strengthen your faith. When facing pain and conflict, disappointment and heartbreak you have two choices: allow it to draw you away from me or allow it to draw you towards me. In me is strength. In me is healing. In me is recovery. What will you choose?
A massage and a spiritual lesson! I’m really liking physical therapy!
And so today, I will pause from my typing to stretch and strengthen my neck. Knowing that it is not an overnight cure, and that strengthening these muscles and retraining them to only carry the burden to which they were created will take a long time. But trusting that one day the pain will be less and my neck will be stronger.
Today, I will allow my pain to motivate me to do the work I must do so that I can heal, whether that work is neck stretches and exercise, or prayer and spending time in God’s Word.
Are you facing some kind of pain today? Physical? Emotional? Spiritual? Our natural response is to flee from pain, to try and disguise it or ignore it. But what if today we embrace that pain, just a little, and allow it to propel us into the arms of the One who loves us more than we can possibly imagine—even if we don’t always feel that loveable. God is good even when our circumstances are not. Today, just for this moment, will you allow your pain to motivate you to cry out to Him and to do the work that will ultimately lead to healing? And if you would like to leave a prayer request, it would be an honor for me to pray for you as you do the hard work of stretching and strengthening. (I’ll pray for you as I go through my neck workout routine! 😉