June 08, 2021
No person wishes to experience pain all throughout their lives, but we cannot be ignorant of the fact that it is part of our lives. If you would know me personally, you would know that I am the kind of person who will do whatever it takes to avoid pain and I have no problems admitting it.
One of the most painful situations I went through was when my dad got cancer. My mom had cancer in 1996 and 2000, and in both instances, God healed her. So when we found out that my dad got cancer the following year, I was in faith and very hopeful that God will heal him because He healed my mom twice.
But God did not answer my prayer in the way I had hoped. My dad passed away. It was so painful that it made me think about my faith. I was wondering whether God doesn’t answer my prayers or if He wants me to grow through pain. I remember the test of faith that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went through. Under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar, they were commanded to bow down and worship a different god. They said:
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods nor worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
This has always been my prayer. That even if God doesn’t answer my prayers, I would still worship Him. A good question to ask ourselves is: Will I still love God and trust Him even if He allows me to go through tremendous pain?
Is pain really necessary?
I remember losing a basketball game by a half-court shot. We were up by two. The ball was in our possession. They fouled out our best free-throw shooter but was not able to sink either of the shots. Our opponent got the rebound and threw the ball from our free-throw line and the shot went in. Our team lost by 1 point.
When we lost, I remember telling my players: “That’s part of basketball.” You win some; you lose some. I told them that it is okay to be sad and feel the pain. As losing is part of playing any game, experiencing pain is a part of life.
In training and molding my players, it is necessary to expose them to a degree of pain, whether it is for strengthening, conditioning, learning, or mastering a specific skill. Pain and discipline are involved in this process.
When our players get tired, thirsty, and their muscles ache, confusion and frustration start to build up because it’s just really difficult. In the same way, when we experience difficulties due to intense pain, we tend to get confused and experience frustration because we do not see the purpose of the pain we are experiencing.
Training our players by exposing them to a certain degree of pain has a science and art to it. We have coaches who supervise our strengthening and conditioning exercises. We have trained eyes that allow us to closely monitor the heart, breathing, and all other physiological aspects of our players. In short, we only expose our players to a degree of pain that we know will make them strong, not to harm them or make them weak.
The art side is the ability to recognize the potential in our players, seeing them in a way that they couldn’t. We push them, train and mold them, and remind them that pain and difficulty are part of the process for an athlete to get better. That is why it is important to know our players personally beyond the court because this helps us assess whether that person is giving his or her hundred percent or not. The level of relationship between a coach and a player allows them to go through more difficult challenges and even withstand pain.
If an athlete gets used to not giving his or her hundred percent, he or she will get stuck and will not progress as he or she should. Every coach would want to continuously push their players until they reach their full potential, purpose, and destiny as an athlete. And just like in sports, pain is part of the path and process of growth.
How can my pain become my blessing?
Your Response to Pain
My son Lorenzo went through the painful effects of bullying. As a father, it pains me to see my son feel not just physical pain but also the emotional pain that it brought him. I will pray and do everything I can to help my children go through pain, but every parent will admit that they couldn’t shield their children from all the pains of the world.
I couldn’t shield my children from pain, and that is why I try to help build their character. Whether in schooling or sports, I teach them to handle pain the right way. The key in making your pain into your blessing is to guard your response towards it. It is not only experiencing pain that molds us, but most importantly, how we respond to it.
It is important to remember that we will inevitably experience pain in various ways and forms. Jesus said it Himself,“In this world you will face many troubles” (John 16:33). I would always tell my players that we won’t always win. We will lose games. We’re going to miss shots. We will make turnovers. But once we see them in practice, we have to move forward and make it a stepping stone rather than a tombstone.
Whenever I think about my personal response to pain, I would ask myself: Will this pain make me Christ-like and trust God more, or will this draw me away from God? The choices we make will determine whether pain will be beneficial for us or will destroy us.
Your View of Pain
Ninety-nine percent of our athletes find it difficult to view the pain of training beneficial. But the truth is that a lot of the fruition comes long after the training. The fruits of painful training happen in the future when their muscles develop, and their endurance and skill-set get better. This is my conviction about pain, whether in reading the Bible or personal experience: You will only see the blessing of pain over time, because most often it will only bear fruit in the long run.
The pains that we experience do not produce an immediate blessing. We must have a long-term view of pain if we want to better appreciate the blessing of pain. The fruition of pain works like planting a seed. You don’t see it, but it grows in the dark. In the same way, the fruition of pain really happens after you go through those “dark times” and the appreciation of the blessing comes in due time.
Another helpful way to handle pain is to think to yourself to just get by for today. We got the idea from the account of the Israelites in the desert where God provided for their food every single day. We call this “Manna every day,” or taking on life one day at a time. I would always tell my wife and kids that if things get difficult for today, then let’s just get by today then leave tomorrow up to God.
Trusting God while Experiencing Pain
I have always held on to God’s promise in Proverbs whenever I go through a painful situation.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
My players trust me that I am not senselessly exposing them to pain. Even if they couldn’t understand it yet, they would trust me that I am after their own good. As my players trust me this way, I hope that I would also be that kind of child to God. Even if I got hurt through my own fault, through someone’s fault, or through no one’s fault, my prayer is that God would straighten my path as I tread down the path that is laden with unavoidable pain.
Ultimately, what gives me comfort is the truth that God is the author of my life. He knows my highs and lows, my joys and pains. It is like seeing God as the director of your life who weaves your story. There is a sovereign God who powerfully works behind the scenes. Then eventually you see Him restoring you, healing you, and building something inside of you as your story unfolds and as you walk with Him every single day.
I hope that as you handle pain the right way and trust that God works out for the good, this pain will cause you to have a deeper relationship with Him.