I sometimes catch myself saying this to myself to encourage myself to do something hard or unpleasant or that I fear I’ll fail at. Submitting pieces of my writing to a prestigious publishing house, signing up for a class to learn a new skill, asking to hang out with a person who intimidates but intrigues me, even asking for time with a friend I know is busy…these are all things I have to psyche myself up for. “It never hurts to try,” I say. I’ll grow through this experience either way and learn from it for next time – how can that hurt? I almost believe it. I almost believe that it doesn’t hurt to try something new, ask someone to hang out, put pieces of your soul out there. Except that it does hurt. And it feels minimizing to pretend otherwise.
It hurts to try because it hurts to remember. Whenever I send off poems for potential publication, previous rejection come to mind (as every writer knows, there have been a lot). Whenever I’ve signed up for a new class, the fear of failing in front of other people (and yes, having been laughed at for it in the past) does sometimes overshadow the excitement of learning and growing. Whenever I consider reaching out to someone new, I am reminded of the times when people ignored me; even when I muster up the courage to ask, the sting of being told “yes” with no follow up that’s happened so many times in the past prevents me from feeling the little victory of being able to ask in the first place. My point is not to complain but to give myself some grace for struggling to do new things or difficult things. If I try to pretend that it doesn’t hurt to try, it’s really hard to give myself that grace.
I think Jesus gives us permission to struggle – with new things and with old. “In this world you will have trouble,” He says in John 16:33. Things will hurt, in other words. It does hurt to try. “But take heart!” Jesus continues, “I have overcome the world.” Pain is an understandable response to trouble in this world, but we don’t have to give up because of it and we don’t have to force ourselves to press on pretending the pain isn’t real. We can take solace in Jesus’ triumph over the world, both the one at Calvary and the one promised to us in the final consummation. It does hurt to try and that’s okay.
Jesus also doesn’t say that we have to overcome the world. Sometimes, reaching out to a new person (or, honestly, even an old one) is too much for me. Sometimes, I’m not healed enough from my last submission being turned down to try again just yet. Sometimes, I need some space to just be before stretching and growing again. That trying again, especially in the face of injury in the past, does hurt and can be too much for us to muscle through or overcome. Jesus does not say, “Take heart and overcome the world.” He says, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” We can indeed do all things through Christ who strengthens us as Philippians 4:13 says, but it is because of Christ who strengthens us. And we are all indeed in need of Christ and Christ’s strength because many times, it does hurt to try.