Growing Pains

“Jesus took Daddy home,” Cheryl McGuinness told her 14-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter.

The news that their father, Tom, had died was not only unexpected, but was tragic and publicly known world-wide.

Tom McGuinness Jr. was the first officer on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

In the following days, weeks, and months, Cheryl dealt with her pain and suffering as well as anyone could under the circumstances. “It took time for my children to heal. It took time for us as a country to heal,” she said.

Cheryl credits her deep faith in God for providing strength, comfort, peace and the will to forgive those responsible.

As a result of her tragic experience, Cheryl began a ministry, “Beauty Beyond the Ashes,” and wrote a book with the same name. Her focus is helping others cope and find healing from that horrible day.

In an interview at the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Cheryl, who’s since remarried said, “Life today is very different than it was 20 years ago. And since that day, we’ve all done a lot of healing, a lot of growing.”

Every life experience, even painful ones, can serve as an opportunity for growth. Cheryl wrote, “I am learning more each day. The circumstances of 9/11 have forced me to examine who I am, to face myself in ways that I never had to before, to ask, ‘What does God want for me? What can I do in him, by his power within me? How will he use me to touch others?'”

Cheryl’s story reminds us that personal and spiritual growth is not without pain. Though not as dramatic and horrific as a 9/11 attack, the disappointments, discouragements, and conflicts we all experience can serve as a catalyst for growth.

In fact, all growth is painful to some degree. Paul commanded Timothy to “exercise yourself toward godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). In Hebrews 5:14, he says that our senses or “power of discernment” should “be exercised to discern both good and evil.”

The word “exercise” refers to vigorous training and rugged discipline in which first-century youths engaged to prepare for athletic competition. In fact, our word “gymnasium” is derived from this Greek word.

Spiritual development does not occur accidently. Growth is intentional. It demands commitment. Requires self-discipline. And calls for daily devotion to godly thinking and living. Such spiritual exercise isn’t easy. And it’s often painful. Paul says we must “toil and strive,” words that also picture an athlete physically straining to do his best.

I recall one motivational speaker (it may have been Zig Ziglar) challenging his audience saying, “There is no gain without pain. There is no victory without struggle. And to reach the stars, you’re going to get some scars.”

While that advice may sound like a sports cliché, it’s true in life. It’s true in our spiritual journey.

Change is painful. Decisions can be difficult. Relationships are challenging. Responsibility can be burdensome. Rejection is hurtful. Family problems are heart-wrenching. Health issues are troublesome. And losing loved ones is agonizing.

Yet, through all of those painful experiences is an opportunity to learn, to grow, and become more conformed to the image of Christ. Like Cheryl McGuinness we can find value even in life’s distressing circumstances and see possibilities within our problems.

Inventor Charles Kettering once observed “You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of getting somewhere.”

John Maxwell expressed it this way. “Facing difficulties is inevitable. Learning from them is optional.”

Growing pains are not limited to the physical development in childhood. They’re life long. Emotionally. Mentally. And spiritually.

As the English philosopher and writer William Penn reminds us, “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Sowing Seeds for Spiritual Growth

3 responses to “Growing Pains

  1. Ken, a wonderful blog of encouragement for each of us to strive not only in our physical growth but most importantly our spiritual growth!


  2. Pingback: Weekly Recap: March 20-24 | ThePreachersWord

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