I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for about 2 years now. It started as a gathering of girlfriends in the back row of a yoga studio, grunting and giggling with each other. Then it turned into my personal escape as I waited at the back door every day at 4:05, mat strung over my shoulder and car keys in hand. And then it eventually turned into a daily practice.
Even though I’ve taken breaks several times for different reasons, I always enjoy coming back to that space. I try to ease into it by taking the easy version of the poses and working up to the harder ones as I continue. But not this time. For some reason I decided to go all out and power my way through the tough poses. I planked like a pro. I mastered those leg extension in down dog. I even up dogged…something I thought I would never be able to do. It felt AWESOME!
And then the morning came. As the big kid climbed into my bed I immediately felt muscles in my back that I never knew existed. As I reached for the remote, it took one of those grunts that makes impossible things possible. So much pain. I was for a moment regretful that I pushed myself so hard the night before. But a cup of coffee and two Tylenol and I was back at my normal routine of a busy day. Even through the pain, I felt stronger. There was no longer regret and I was back at that yoga mat as soon as the kids went to sleep.
I’ve experienced a lot of pain in the past few years. The pain of losing possessions and jobs, pain of childbirth, the pain of child death. Sometimes I wonder how in this world I am even able to experience happiness. Is it artificial? Am I deceiving myself and not accepting these circumstances? Nope. That’s not it. I have fully immersed myself in the grief of each of these events and always come back to a place of contentment and that illusive little word…JOY.
Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those
who don’t numb themselves to really living.
After all of life’s circumstances, I’ve come to understand that I am experiencing joy because I have experienced pain. Because of the pain in my life, I have appreciative joy for the things that I have been given. Even though I experienced joy before the pain, I now have a much fuller realization of that word and what it really means.
…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Paul was on to something here when he was writing to the Philippians, and it wasn’t the thought that “If I pray hard enough and believe, God will deliver me from this pain” Nope. Rather it’s the thought that even if I can’t lift my head for the pain, it’s ok. That even when He says “No” He still says “I love you.” He is still God in our pain and in our joy. He still loves us and cares for us. He desires for us to keep fighting and we only find true joy in knowing Him.
Contentment is not the fulfillment of what we want, but the realization of how much we already have.
So what are we to make of this kind of joy? This illusive thing that we think we grasp until we don’t? Let it be an encouragement to you when you are going through something painful. Know that there is a purpose in the pain. Some things need to be broken so they can be made into something more beautiful. Look forward to the other side…to the completeness we have in Christ. Lacking in nothing.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Although I am missing several things that I once held in my hands, I still feel that I lack in nothing. I still feel perfect and complete in Christ. Because no man can take away what He has given me. If I am in Him, and if He has my world in His hands, then I still have everything. And that is where true joy is found.
So I will continue in this practice of life, walking the path to joy through pain. It may have started as something I just did, but it turned into something I had great expectations for and eventually into a regular practice. Daily I will come back to that place where His pain became my joy and my salvation, at the foot of His cross.