A word I’m much too familiar with.
A word that I’m sure you’re much too familiar with as well.
Pain seems to stick closer by my side than a lifelong friend. Except it’s not.
My life from age 3 has been filled with pain. If it’s not from a divorced home, it’s from abuse. If it’s not from abuse, it’s from death of a loved one. If it’s not from death, it’s from insecurities. If it’s not from insecurities, it’s from a chronic illness.
Pain isn’t limited to a certain shape or size. It molds itself to best fit our circumstance and bombards us in a way we never saw coming. It enters into our very soul as an unwelcome guest, too inconsiderate to even take its shoes off. It takes a seat on the living room sofa, kicks up its feet, and says “I think I’m going to stay awhile.”
I’ve been in a season of pain for a long time. Longer than I can remember. There have been times where I’ve questioned my own salvation because “a Christian shouldn’t feel this much pain for this long,” I’d convince myself.
I’ve spent hours weeping before I have to go to work, saturated the red blotches on my face with makeup, and avoided eye contact with my coworkers in hopes that they wouldn’t notice my freshly bloodshot eyes from crying just 3 minutes before.
The split second I see or hear something that triggers the pain, I shut down for the rest of the day and become robotic, as if all humanness was stripped away from me in that moment as a coping mechanism so I don’t have to face the pain.
I’ve had mental breakdowns sitting at my cubicle, sometimes withdrawing myself and shoving every painful emotion down into the abyss of my soul, and other times taking it out on my supervisor telling him “I’m never going to heal from this” with a small voice that booms hopelessness.
Where is the hope that this will end when it seems to be chaos after chaos? Heartache after heartache? Is God punishing me because of some sin I don’t even know I’m committing? Has He decided to abandon me completely because I’m too broken to mend?
Is He actually a good God who uses disappointment and pain as a way to prepare our very way to Him?
There are two paths. In one path, we see people crawling towards the finish line around obstacles much too big and much too difficult. They’re bloody. Bruised. Exhausted. They don’t see an end in sight. They lose hope at times. They don’t seem as if they can go on an longer.
The next path is oh so beautiful. More beautiful than anything the world’s ever seen. Flowers. Waterfalls. A sunrise more beautiful than our finite minds could ever imagine. People walking with ease, stopping to smell the roses on their way to their final destination. The path is easy. Comforting. Refreshing.
But guess where Jesus is.
Spoiler alert: He’s alongside those who are bloody, beaten, and exhausted struggling to make their way to the finish line. He’s with those who are crawling towards the narrow gate, even if that means falling time and time again. He says “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
He’s fending for the weak. Interceding for weary. Cheering on the discouraged.
Right now, we currently residing in-between two gardens. The Bible is set in the very beginning in the first garden of Eden. A story we all know. We’ve all been angry at Adam and Eve at least once in our lives for ruining everything for us. I know I have. But never forget, it ends with Eden restored in the last chapters of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. It says,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-5)
Holy smokes. What a promise to fall back onto!
The people in the second path are so enticed with the beauty around them that they are blinded to what’s ahead. The beauty was enticing. The path was breathtaking. But the ending is something they never expected nor could have ever prepared for: an eternity of separation from God.
Psalm 40:3 promises a new song that we will sing. It says
“He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.”
Get this. The new song we will sing is our many cries to the Lord for help. As Lysa Terkeurst says, “The most powerful praise songs don’t start out as beautiful melodies; rather, they start as guttural cries of pain. But soon the process of pain turns into the promise of a praise like no other.”
Pain is oh so real, and deeply personal. The Lord doesn’t protect us from pain, but He protects us through it. He’s not punishing us; He’s preparing us. Be encouraged: He doesn’t leave us in the hurting. He has promised us a restored garden.
So, when things are much too hard for much too long, remember the promise that is to come. The process is preparing you for the promise.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” / 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
Read that again.