Pain’s Preparation

Written by: Christopher Sell

Primary Source: The Wednesday Wake Up

The most successful people typically have their greatest impact where they have experienced the most personal pain.

In The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner (portrayed by Will Smith) struggles with homelessness for nearly a year while trying to raise his toddler-aged son on meager wages before eventually creating his own brokerage firm and becoming a self-made millionaire.

During his illustrious basketball career, Michael Jordan was counted on by his teammates to take the game winning shot in a game 26 times…and missed. Of course, he also made well over 30 game-winning shots during his career, too. Not to mention an NCAA Championship, the 6 NBA Championships, and multiple Most Valuable Player awards.

Victor Frankel, the psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, was sent to a concentration camp and clung to hope by finding significance in the suffering, saving countless lives by helping others do the same.

Fredrick Douglas escaped from slavery and then courageously told his story of anguish and pain to fuel the fight against it.

There can’t be redemption if there wasn’t first a fall.

The hero always experiences an “all is lost” moment before the dramatic rise. The protagonist’s greatest struggle then transforms into their greatest strength. Purpose ripened with pain, not just for redemption for themselves, but for the world around them.

Sometimes being a hero just means rising from the harsh, unforgiving, and/or desolate circumstances in which you find yourself. It means finding the good in an otherwise bad situation. It means keeping faith that things will be better when they seem so helpless.

A common demon that many people have battled is their finances. The inability to secure enough income has left many stressed and in desperation. Living paycheck to paycheck can summon up feelings of hopelessness, shame, and anguish. I, too, have felt the toils of financial stress.

I remember thinking, Why can’t I have what my friends have? What did I do to deserve this? Why me? 

But each time, I’ve resurfaced from the ashes more convinced that I’m never being punished; rather, I’m getting prepared. Toiling in financial insecurity has only led me to improve my budgeting, sharpen my will at showing financial constraint, and double-down on my vocational efforts to find a job that is emotionally andfinancially rewarding.

Perhaps you can recall being in a similar situation. It might not have been finances. It might not have been nearly as horrific as slavery, or a concentration camp, or homelessness. But it most likely seemed full ofhopelessness.

Maybe your purpose is so important that it can only be forged in the difficult and the dire.

As Dallas Willard writes,

“All great works are prepared in the desert, including redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artist in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night.”

No water, no food, and no shade — it’s easy to die in the desert, no doubt about it. But if we can stay alive here, with all our old comforts burnt and blown away, well then we can stay alive, and thrive, anywhere else.

Something significant happens to us when we are void of what we depended on.

There is significant purpose and promise in your pain.

The discomfort you are experiencing today might be preparing you for your life’s purpose tomorrow.

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My name is Christopher Sell and I'm an educator in higher education. At my core, I'm passionate about creating synergy and connecting people to opportunity. I place tremendous focus on collaboration, strategic planning, forward-thinking, and teamwork in any professional environment. As an alumnus of Western Michigan University (WMU) and Michigan State University (MSU), I'm equally committed to leveraging relationships with industry and students/graduates to retain & attract talent in the state of Michigan and contribute to the economic revitalization of the "Mitten State" that I love so much. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of the Pure Michigan campaign.

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