Thoughts, Engagements, and Updates

26 May 2014

Play through the Pain


The story of Naaman the Leper in 2 Kings 5 is a very remarkable story. For those not familiar with it, it is the story of a man called Naaman, who was the Commander-in-chief of the Syrian army. He was a mighty man of valour, but a leper. As a solider, this guy was not an indolent hanger-on, he conquered nations. He won so many wars for his king that his problem became that of the king.

Thank God he was not a Jew. The Jews would have ostracized him from the community because of his leprosy. But no! The Syrians cared little about that. It reminds me of how God places us where we can be tolerated and absorbed despite our limitations and unsoundness.

But how could a leper become an army general? How could a sick guy manage to become the number one man in the military? Who fights in sickness? How was he able to deal with his chronic granulomatous disease in the public? How could he succeed in the art of fencing with no (healthy) fingers? He ignored his leprosy and managed to conquer nations. In his sickness he became a leader despite all odds.

As we read the story of Naaman, it is easy to ignore his unusual strength and courage in the face of his stigma and focus on his unbelief when Prophet Elisha instructed him to go wash off at the dirty water of Jordan. The same way it is easy for some of us to shy away from what God has called us to do because of our sickness. For a moment, let’s conceptualize the imagery of Naaman in the battle field. Imagine how he held on to his sword thrusting it back and forth without the terminal members of his hand. I’m pretty sure he must have learnt some exceptional fencing skills to be able to pull that off and not get killed in the battle front.

There are great life’s lessons from the story of this great man.

Even in our sickness God expects us to do mighty things for him. Anything that impairs our normal emotional/material/physical/spiritual function or attracts pain in our life is a sickness. A sickness is a source of pain. The key to overcoming any sickness or stigma, however, is to fight even in those conditions. The bible says “my people perish for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave”- Frederick Douglas. We are crushed by our conditions because we do not prepare ourselves to battle against them. We give up so easily on our expectations because we believe that a life free of shame is the visa to a hopeful future. Even in our embarrassing conditions we can still do great things and win the battles of life. Regardless of our situations, God can still use us to do mighty things.

Naaman hid his leprosy from the public. This guy knew how to preserve his self-worth. He did not allow himself to attract pity by announcing his deformity. Pity does not buy us ticket to haven and neither does it gives you leverage to success. It is not mandatory for people to understand our suffering and neither is it compulsory for them to do something about it. Live your life with realism and without self-pity. You don’t need people to make you feel good about your “situation” to succeed.

Naaman did not conquer his deformity first…he conquered the world before paying attention to his deformity. As painful and disgusting as being a leper was, Naaman decided not to focus on his sickness. You could waste your whole life span trying to fix your past or that deformity and never probably will…yet missing the big picture of life. Focus on yourself. Focus on your career. Focus on your calling. Focus on your gift. Focus on what you can do before paying attention to that deformity. With the right resources and connections you can deal with your deformity from top down. Naaman focused on his career and ignored his situation. Now he had the power to get to the king with just a phone call. Focus on what you can do and forget about your past. And you know why? Because…

…when you stay focused on what you can do in spite of your sickness (situation), time will come when the world will need what you do in spite of your sickness (situation).

Months ago during the NBA finals, Lebron James sustained an ankle injury just less than four minutes into the third quarter, James snatched a bounce pass near the left block, turned and collapsed to the floor as his thigh collided with Biyombo’s knee. The commentators concluded the match on account of his last-minute injury as he grimaced on the court as teammates huddled around him and he received medical attention. His coach even urged him to stay down and take some rest. But as he was helped to his feet, to the surprise of everybody, he continued in the game. As he laboured around the court in the last few minutes, James shakes off his injury and helped his team build a double-digit lead which was the driving force behind their closing flourish. He limped and limped with his pain and took the first eight points in the fourth quarter, expanding their lead to 12 and making it impossible for their opponents to survive the lead. James became the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in that championship for his painful, outstanding performance.

James played in his pains and got the MVP title. Truly, it is the shots you shot through the pains of life that wins life’s championship. Refuse to be an object of pity and demonstrate to the world through your life that vulnerability is not weakness.

What have you given up on simply because of your situation? Are you waiting on people to make you feel good about your situation before you do something about your life? Which areas in your life have been impaired with deformity? It could be spiritual, emotional, or financial deformity. Perhaps you are at that start-up phase in life waiting for all the money in the world to roll in before you kick-start that business idea? How about starting with the shame of having nothing? Remember, Naaman stood out because he didn’t let his situation define him.

Encourage yourself to do something meaningful even with the little that you have. Show leadership and focus on what you can do without the millions. Fight that scarcity with your perseverance. Ignore your inadequacy and focus on what you can do!

Show leadership. Fight in that despair!

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