The maxim of “no pain, no gain” was put on dramatic display by the Japanese gymnast Shun Fujimoto in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. During competition, Fujimoto’s Olympic dreams quickly started to fade when he broke his right knee while performing the floor exercises. It was obvious to all that the injury had likely ended his pursuit of a gold medal, and his participation in the rest of Olympic games. But Fujimoto was having none of it, and took part the following day in his strongest event, the rings. His routine was spectacular, but the critical point was still to come - the dismount. Without hesitation, Fujimoto ended with a twisting, triple somersault. The crowd held its breath as he landed with force on his broken knee. But he stuck his landing perfectly, to thunderous applause from the amazed spectators who witnessed this feat of grace and grit. Later, reporters asked about that moment and he replied, “The pain shot through me like a knife. It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal and the pain is gone.”
I love that story as it reminds us that, as embattled, wounded, and suffering disciples of Jesus Christ, someday amidst the euphoria of eternal life and the glories of heaven, the pain of dying to self, of duking it out with the Devil, and of cutting across the grain of this world will be gone. The sacrifice will be worth it. The losses and crosses will seem like nothing. The long dark nights of the soul will be a fading memory as the Sun peaks over the hills of a new Heaven and a new Earth (Rev. 21:1-5). The pain that Shun Fujimoto endured was for a perishable crown, while we suffer pain for an imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:25).
The anticipation of present suffering giving way to future glory was something that fueled the faithfulness and fearlessness of the Apostle Paul. In his letter to the Romans, Paul states that he is able to manage his present painful struggles with the thought of coming glory (Rom. 8:18). The coming glory of immortal life, a new body, everlasting peace, unspeakable joy, easy obedience, and always being with the Lord, is a future glory that far outweighs the tribulation of this world. Paul presents a similar perspective in his second letter to the Corinthians, where he calls our afflictions and conflictions light and momentary compared to eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:17). His point is that upon that first breath of immortal life, the pain of this present and evil world will be gone forever. Whatever brought tears to our eyes in this life will be wiped away in a moment of unsurpassing triumph (Rev. 21:4). Cross time will give way to crown time (1 Peter 4:12-13).
In his book “We Shall See God” Randy Alcorn states: “Anticipating Heaven doesn’t eliminate pain, but it does lessen it and put it in perspective. Meditating on Heaven is a great pain reliever. Suffering and death are temporary conditions – they are but a gateway to eternal life and unending joy. The biblical doctrine of Heaven is about the future, but it has tremendous benefits here and now. If we grasp this truth, it will shift our center of gravity, and radically change our perspective on life.” Alcorn is right, meditating on Heaven is a great pain reliever. Earthly pain is real but it is relative, it is light and momentary when compared to Heaven.
Someday the pain will stop, and that hope should make us unstoppable.