One of my favorite movies of all time is “Remember the Titans.” In one scene early on in the movie, Coach Boone is working the guys hard to try to bring them together as a team. They’re out in the hot sun doing drills and we hear this exchange: Coach Boone – “What is pain?” Team – “French bread!” Coach Boone – “What is fatigue?” Team – “Army clothes!”
While this scene was clever and inspirational, it was just a creative way of expressing the common axiom “no pain, no gain” that has been around in one form or another for hundreds of years. While we most often associate that saying with exercise or sports, its original application was actually spiritual. Benjamin Franklin is generally credited with the modern version of the saying, but an early form of the expression is found in a Hebrew collection of Rabbinical teachings known as “The Ethics of the Fathers.” In it, Rabbi Ben Hei says, “According to the pain is the gain.”
Regardless of who said it and how, there is truth to be found in this simple concept: many of the best things in life are only acquired after a little bit of pain. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in the realm of relationships. One of the great benefits of friendship is that we can build each other up and make each other better, but that generally doesn’t happen without some measure of pain. The wise king Solomon said it this way: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).” The imagery is that of two iron blades being rubbed together to sharpen each. I think the benefit here is obvious – two people make each other better. However, in order for two pieces of iron to sharpen each other there has to be friction and pressure. This produces great heat. If we transfer this fact into the analogy, then we are back to the truth with which we started. Namely, the benefits of friendship often require us to go through painful or uncomfortable moments.
In friendship, this pain could take the form of loving correction or great effort in being patient with your friend. It could be mutual accountability between friends who agree to hold each other to the standards found in God’s Word. It might be the pain of enduring hardships together and bearing each other’s burdens. Whatever form the pain takes, we can be sure that it will come. The important thing is that we remember that the pain will bring blessings, and when it comes to our friendships it will certainly be worth it. Who knows? Maybe God will take that painful relationship and turn it into one of your greatest blessings.