When I was a kid, my parents took us to the pool or the lake during the summer months. One activity we played at was to try and hold a beach ball under water. It was a lesson in futility. No matter how hard we tried, the little bugger would shoot up with a vengeance – usually smacking whoever was close by.
Pain is like this. We may be able to push down our emotions, but sooner or later, they are going to shoot back to the surface (frequently in the form of anger)
– and often injure those closest to us.
God designed our emotions and gave us a great range of feeling. In fact, as I read through the Gospels and focused on Jesus, I discovered that He displayed the whole gamut – from loud and crazy exuberance (when the 70 returned from their mission trip) to anger (when He overturned the tables in the temple), grief (Lazarus), and anguish (the Garden of Gethsemane).
We read that He was moved with compassion when He saw broken bodies and shattered lives. He was sorrowful over Jerusalem’s pending doom.
The point is that emotions are our “grace gift.” We were created for intense joy, and on the other hand, He gave us capacity to feel intense pain There is nothing inherently wrong with our emotions…it’s what we do with them that becomes a problem.
For instance, when we experience traumatic pain, we may put up a barrier against feeling that way ever again.
We don’t realize that when we blockade our emotions, we are shutting our hearts down. We fight to control circumstances, and can fall into depression – a non-feeling life.
We can become “emotional lepers.”
With deadened emotional “nerves” we put ourselves in harm’s way without realizing what we’re doing.
The ability to feel pain by any means – whether physical or emotional – is a built-in safety feature. Those who have lost sensation in their bodies are at risk for additional injury. If there is no sensation in a hand, the person is apt to rest it on a hot surface and be severely burned.
In the same way, a deadened heart will continue to be put into situations where more damage can be incurred. Without the ability to feel pain, we don’t pull back from dangerous people.
We need our emotions!
Apart from God, there are three basic solutions to dealing with pain:
We can hide our wounds (bury them) and go into denial – the pain surfaces, but comes out in other places, often hurting those we love the most. Anger is a cover-up for pain and fear.
We rationalize – try to work it out in our mind by making what happened “okay.” The logic is that if we can make sense of it, then maybe we won’t feel hurt. It goes like this: “I was hurt when they __________, but they did it because _____________. I understand why they did ______________. I guess I would have done the same thing if I was in their shoes.” This is avoidance. I was hurt. Period.
Our mind cannot fix our heart.
We develop an addiction – we choose our pain killer: drugs, alcohol, sex, exercise, entertainment, shopping, religious activity, work, the Internet.
“With God,” the grieving process brings healing!
Read the Psalms. Not in the nice sing-songy way they are often heard; but really read them. Take the 13th Psalm for instance:
“How long, O Lord, will You forget me? How long, O Lord, will You look the other way? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and have so much sorrow in my heart every day? LOOK ON ME – ANSWER ME! Give light to my darkness before they see me fall…”
When we take our pain to God, help is on the way, for as soon as we bring Him into the equation, we begin to realize that we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Forever is a long time!
As in the above Psalm, once we pour out our heart, we begin to remember that God is our good Father. The key to our faith is the act of remembering. The Psalm continues, “But I trust in Your unfailing love, You have been good – You will be good to me.”
When we choose to grieve in relationship with God, the Holy Spirit has access to our heart and can indeed be our Comforter; Jesus understands our grief. He went through the gamut of painful experiences, too. He experientially knows what it’s like to be hurt.
A Note About Pain and God:
God is not far removed from us, but since the day Adam and Eve fell in the Garden, there has not been one single day…not one single moment when He is not grieved and hurt by the actions and attitudes of mankind. He understands far more than we could ever imagine!
I’ll bet He longs for The Day of the Lord – when all this is over!
When I consider all He has gone through since life began on earth, I realize that I don’t begin to fathom the depths of His patience…the Bible calls it “long-suffering.”
Long-suffering is not a metaphor where God is concerned…
…It is His “every moment” reality.
I’m thankful that He doesn’t go on vacation to “get away from it all!”
In the next post, we’ll wrap up this section on grief with some practical ways to work through our wounds and find healing for our hearts. Jesus said He came to give us life “to the full.” If we are full of pain, there isn’t room for anything else.
You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…
This section is about loss and grief as obstacles to intimacy. It begins with Plastic Hearts
The section on Living by the Rules starts here: Where Image Is Everything
Learn about other Obstacles to Intimacy here: A Clogged Conduit