I was about 9 years old. I was taking Red Cross swimming lessons at our municipal pool. The day had arrived when I was to be tested to see if I could advance from the Advanced Beginners class to the Intermediate class. Approximately fifteen of us were to take turns swimming from one side of the pool to the other and back, doing various strokes and exercises along the way. I watched as my classmates one by one tried and failed to pass the test. Then it was my turn to fail, I mean, my turn to attempt to pass the test. I got about halfway across the pool when I felt that burning sensation you feel when chlorinated water enters your nose. I immediately stopped and grabbed the side of the pool, ending my test.
One of the instructors was standing above me, a scraggly-haired college student. "Why did you stop?" he yelled, in a less-than-compassionate voice.
"I got water in my nose," I explained.
That's when this scruffy college student taught me one of life's great lessons, even if he probably never realized he was doing just that. Bending down, he shouted, "So?"
So? The question took me aback. It had just seemed logical to me that the answer to pain was to eliminate the thing causing the discomfort. My 9-year-old brain had not latched onto the fact that a valuable goal is worth achieving even if we have to go through discomfort to get there. Recognizing that, I wasn't sure what would keep me from completing the test. In fact, I did it rather easily on my next attempt. Seeing me pass the test, almost all of the others did so as well.
At times I think Jesus lovingly says "So?" to so many of the things that seem important to me. The obstacles, the hardships, the barriers that appear along the way can't be compared to the goal that waits at the end. We have to focus on the final destination, not the bumps in the road. The apostle Paul wrote: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). God's plan for us is not to eliminate suffering in our lives, but to teach us to look past it. When Paul and his companion Barnabas were visiting churches they had started, they told them, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). The night before the crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
If you're not a Christian, it's only fair that we warn you that the road won't always be easy. But I can assure you that the goal is more than worth any difficulties we might face along the way. I'd like to tell you more about living above the hardships of life, with our eyes focused on the goal. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our blog at www.hopeforlife.org/blog.