I had just run a mile when my dad picked up the phone. I think that’s how he knew something was wrong. I don’t run for fun. It was my sophomore year in college, and I’d just ended a four year relationship. Devastated wasn’t even the word.
“Why are he running?”, he asked. A fair question. I went on to tell him how hurt I was, that I had prayed about it, talked about it, cried about it, and I was running out of options for feeling better. I just wanted the hurt to go away.
I’ll never forget how my dad responded. He reminded me of his own heartbreak at the same age (he was married at 17 and divorced at 21. Yeah, I can’t believe that happened either.) He went on to say, “Here’s what I learned. There are some things in life you can’t pray better, cry better, or even run better. They are just going to hurt, and your only option is to grit your teeth and decide to get through it.”
I still think about that advice when I speak to students. So often in the classroom and in ministry, I’ve been tempted to teach students how to avoid hurt, how to fast forward hurt, and how to feel better. But maybe one of the best lessons they can learn at this stage of life is the art of gritting their teeth and deciding to keep going.
Talk to a counselor?
Talk to a friend?
Absolutely. (Ok, the running part is negotiable.) And sometimes, those things will make them feel better. But not always, and I think we owe it to them to say so. Sometimes it’s just going to hurt for a while.
When it comes to hurt and pain, I think we’re all tempted to go around it, to take the detour, to numb it, or to jump over it like we’re the player in a video game. But in reality, sometimes the only way through hurt is through it. And, maybe the best benefit is when we look back on this painful time, we may just find that getting through it gives us the courage to get through the next hard thing.
In fact, I think that’s what James, Jesus’ brother, was talking about when he suggested we consider trials “pure joy” because they create perseverance. James understood that going through something gives us the confidence, courage, and strength to get through the next thing. And sometimes gritting our teeth through a difficult situation is the only way to develop the grit we need to become all God has created us to be.