Thoughts, Engagements, and Updates

5 Mar 2016

Play through the Pain


I am most certain that you’ve heard about the biblical story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. Naaman is a biblical character whose life’s story might help us in contemporary life. The first thing we notice about this man is that he was a commander in the Syrian army. In fact if he was our contemporary today, he would probably be the equivalent of Vladimir Putin; except that he was not directly the president but a high-ranking soldier who had the power of the commander in chief. The second thing we notice about this guy is that even though he commands such peck and power as an army general, he was also sick. Not just sick; was a leper. Yes,  leprosy!

But even as a sick leper, Naaman was not indolent. He conquered nations. He won so many wars for his king that his problem became that of the king. But here is what freaks me out: how could a leper become an army general? How could a sick person manage to become the number one man in the army? How was he able to deal with his chronic disease in public? How could he have succeeded in the art of fencing with no (healthy) fingers? For a moment, let’s imagine 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 hands. I’m pretty sure that he must have learnt some exceptional fencing skills to be able to pull that off and not get killed on the battle front. The story of Naaman the Leper is truly a very inspiring one indeed.

However, as we read the story of Naaman the leper, it is easy to ignore his profound courage and audacity in the face of a cultural stigma and focus on his unbelief when Prophet Elisha instructed him to go wash off at the dirty water of Jordan. For crying out loud, this man managed to conquer nations despite his leprosy and deserves some honour. In his sickness he became a successful leader against all odds. I think there are great life lessons from the story of a great man like this, of which I will mention a few.

One of the things we can learn from the life of Naaman is that we are expected to do mighty things despite our sickness. I think the key to Naaman’s success was his ability to fight in his sickness. Sickness is anything that impairs our normal, emotional, material, physical, or spiritual functioning and attracts pain and weakness. It is easy to give up on ourselves because of a weakness. But we can learn from this great man and keep fighting despite our “weak” conditions. So the next time life gives you lemons make sure you make a lemonade out of it and fight with courage even in that sickness.

Secondly, when studying Naaman, I noticed that he hid his leprosy from the public. Naaman knew how to preserve his self-worth. And besides, what’s the point attracting self-pity when nobody really, really cares nor understand how “bad” it really hurts on the inside? Pity does not buy us a ticket to heaven and neither does it give you leverage to success. It is therefore not mandatory for people to understand our suffering and neither is it compulsory for them to do something about it. My advice would be to live with realism and without self-pity.

The third thing I noticed about Naaman was that he did not focus on “conquering” his deformity first. Rather, he conquered the world before paying attention to his own problems. As painful and disgusting being a leper was, Naaman decided not to focus on his weakness but rather paid attention to what he could do despite his weakness. You could waste your whole life span trying to fix your weakness and never really succeed at it. But you could also do it the Naaman-way and focus on what you can do in your area of gifting. When you focus on what you can do in spite of your weakness, a time will come when the world will need what you have to offer in spite of your weakness. I therefore implore you to quit moonwalking in agony and rather focus on what you can do because with the right networth or network you can effectively deal with your weakness from top down. Naaman focused on his career and ignored his condition. As a result he earned access to the king. This network eventually opened the door for him to be in contact with a Prophet in Israel who helped him receive his healing.

Overall, I think the secret to Naaman’s success was his ability to play through the pains in his own life. Perhaps the story does not mean much to you today because it happened so long ago, but permit me to conclude this article by sharing the story of one of our contemporaries who also “played” through his pain to become a champion.

In the 2014 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 and teammates huddled around him as he receives medical attention. His coach urged him to stay down and take some rest. But as Lebron was helped to his feet, to the surprise of everyone, he continued to play the game. As he laboured around the court in the last few minutes, he shook off his injury and helped his team build a double-digit lead which gave them a closing win. He limped and limped around the basketball court in his pains 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. Lebron James became the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in that championship for his painful yet outstanding performance.

Some commentators said that Lebron made history because he played through his pains and yet received the MVP title award. If I am to give a word of advice for the eyes stirring and swinging to and fro the edges of this article right now that would be to “play” through whatever painful experience that life tosses at you because truly, it is the shots you shot at the painful moments of life that win life’s championship. Refuse to be an object of pity and demonstrate to the world, through your life’s example, that a moment of pain does not define who we are and neither should it make us weaklings.

What have you got to lose by staying put and fighting those noisy “negatives” in your head that are draining you down the notches of the path of obscurity and depression? It is totally not worth it to ever quit fighting our demons. We can’t allow those negative energies to bury us six-feet under while we are still young and have blood flowing in our veins. Let’s set the example for our generation and show the world that we are fighters even in our physical exhaustion and temporal moments of weakness, and we will continue to fight until the content of our hearts is the blueprint of our reality. Remember, Naaman stood out because he did not let his depressing condition to define him. Regardless of the difficult conditions that often make you to want to throw in the towel and call it a quit, try and encourage yourself to stay put when you are hardest hit, show leadership at your lowest moments, and focus on what you can do at the moment. Don’t focus on that sickness or weakness rather have the courage to stay in the race of life – that’s how you win this battle. It will take courage to “play” through this painful moment of your life. I know it won’t be an easy process, but I’m pretty sure that your strength equals your days – you are made for this difficult moment!


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