When my twelve year old son Ethan was three years old he developed a kidney condition called Nephrotic Syndrome. It meant his kidneys leaked large amounts of protein from the blood into the urine. One of the consequences of this was oedema or excessive swelling. If it wasn’t managed it had the potential to be life threatening. Needless to say, this time in our lives was one of great concern for our little boy. I remember on one particular hospital visit (which was a regular occurrence for us at the time) Ethan needed to be connected to a drip for a prolonged hospital stay and this required putting a needle into his hand. Frustratingly, the doctors and nurses were struggling to get the needle in and poor little Ethan was crying with pain. The doctor asked me as his Dad to hold him down and keep him still so that they could get the needle into his hand. As I wrapped my arms around him and squeezed tightly the doctor made another attempt to get the needle in. Ethan struggled to get free and cried out to me desperately saying “Daddy, they are hurting me! Why aren’t you stopping them?” It broke my heart to hear him crying out for help like that. It killed me to hold him still when he so desperately wanted to break free. It was a day I will never forget. I am pleased to say – the doctors and nurses saved his life and after three years of daily attention he recovered and he is now a healthy young man.
Why did I not answer my three year olds cry for help as he wished? Especially when I could. Because I knew that a little bit of pain now, would inoculate him against a lot of pain later. I knew that some suffering today would bring increased happiness in our future tomorrows. There is an old proverb which says “Weeping may endure for a moment, but joy cometh in the morning”. This is relevant for understanding happiness because too often when things get hard people quit. They throw in the towel and give up. Yet this is the very time when we need to stand strong and not bend. Is it hard to do? Of course. But hard doesn’t mean wrong. I have learned that struggling for a good cause instead of buckling breeds resilience in my character. I have learned that persistence in noble purpose breeds patience. Hard work breeds satisfaction and timely, loving reproof breeds improvement. Nothing great is achieved without toil and this is true of happiness. Great happiness can never be found without there being suffering on the journey to achieve it.
I know that in life we will all get acquainted with trials and difficulty. They say that “time heals all wounds” but there is also truth in the statement that “time wounds all heals” (heal as in the back of your foot!). In our pursuit of happiness, we must not believe that all pain is bad. Nor should we try to turn away from it when it confronts us. Whilst it is not what we want to feel, some pain is necessary for growth and development.
I have learned that the continued struggle for a noble goal increases our desire for its achievement. Many people want good things, but they don’t want them bad enough. They are not prepared to struggle, to sacrifice, to suffer some inconvenience for what they seek. Consequently, they don’t achieve success and the excuses come that “it doesn’t work” or “it’s too hard” or “I didn’t want it anyway!” In such moments as these, people surrender themselves to the warm waters of mediocrity. Such waters are well occupied and people gain false assurance that the large numbers they have surrounded themselves with confirm their choice is right. How wrong they are! To be great; to be our best, we do not swim downstream with the crowd. We go the other way! We fight and we strive. We get knocked down and we get back up. We persist and we carry on! And when we do – we enjoy what others don’t – Victory! And this offers greater happiness and real balance in a way that those in warm water can never imagine and will never appreciate.
So my invitation today is – as you strive for balance and greater happiness, prepare for and be willing to accept a degree of pain in your journey. Not all pain is bad and true greatness requires us to shoulder our portion of it. Remember, our willingness to embrace pain is paradoxically a core ingredient in our happiness and when accepted will lead to the achievement of our full potential.