A friend lives with chronic knee pain. When it gets too bad, he takes some Advil and puts on an ice pack. His doctor told him that at some point, he would need a knee replacement. But until the pain became unbearable or the knee no longer worked, there wasn’t much to be done. He just has to learn how to manage the pain.
How many of us live our lives with that same approach? We know we need to make some changes, but until the pain of our circumstances becomes unbearable, we avoid the “C” word (Change). We know we need to lose some weight, but until our cholesterol gets too high, we avoid the salads and stay away from the gym. We know we need to strengthen our marriage, but until our spouse threatens to file for divorce, we are too busy to work on our communication and listening skills. We know we need to manage our finances and reduce our debt, but until our credit cards are canceled or the bank threatens foreclosure, there’s always time to go shopping for another toy.
In Matthew 19:16-30, Matthew tells the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus to find out how to achieve eternal life. The young man knew the requirements of the law and felt that he had measured up to the expected standard. Jesus replied with the last words the young man expected to hear, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (21). The story does not have a happy ending. “When the young man heard this, he went away said, because he had great wealth” (22).
Perhaps great wealth is not what keeps us from making necessary changes in our lives. Maybe it is a desire to keep our leisure time to ourselves. Perhaps it is an unwillingness to share our possessions with a neighbor. Maybe it is a desire to be the center of attention and have all the information flow through us.
Regardless of what keeps us from changing, the sad reality is that until the pain of our circumstances gets high enough, we won’t be willing to do whatever is necessary to improve our lives. Many of us live with unnecessary pain, simply because we are not willing to change.