Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Time to Cry and a Time to Laugh

I was driving down the road recently and suddenly remembered that I forgot to take something to alleviate the pain in my foot. Twenty minutes earlier I was in my house and preparing to resume my shopping adventure after I made a stop at home to change shoes. But, as my memory is not quite as good as it used to be, I was distracted and forgot. I was already several miles from my house before I realized that I'd forgotten to take that ibuprofen before I left. {sigh}

I started to reason with myself. Okay, maybe the pain isn't bad enough for me to turn around and go home. I decided to just deal with it and be careful to not overdo it.

That's when a thought popped into my head. The purpose of pain is to warn the body of a problem. I was reminded of stories I'd read in the past people who are born without the ability to feel pain. Sounds wonderful, right? You might think so, but the problem is that they are susceptible to serious injury. The person who is unable to feel pain would not realize it when they grab a too-hot skillet or when they twist an ankle and keep walking on it until it breaks.

As I was processing these thoughts my mind recalled another kind of pain: emotional pain. There are many times I would have given anything to not have to feel grief, heartbreak, or hurt feelings.As I compared emotional pain to physical pain, it seemed to me that there were a lot of similarities. Both types of pains are indicators that something is wrong and requires attention. Just as the pain in my foot reminded me to walk carefully and take it easy, emotional pain should be an indicator to attend to whatever is causing that pain.

The trouble with the emotional pain is that society is uncomfortable with it. So, we're taught to shake it off, dry up the tears, and be tough. Carry on! Be a trooper! As with the physical pain, we seek ways to mask the emotional pain with some sort of pain killer. I won't go into all the ways we (as a society) tend to cover up the emotional pain. I think you get the idea. The point of this is to remind myself and others that emotional pain is a normal part of life.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us that there is...
A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

Remember Hannah? She was the childless woman in the Bible who felt years of emotional pain. Being childless in those days was considered a disgrace. It didn't help that her husband had another wife who was able to give him children. Hannah deeply desired to give her husband a child and she prayed about it for years. She cried and she even refused to eat. Each time she went to the temple, she prayed about her heartache. Hannah was so distraught that she became outwardly emotional about it as she talked to God. The priest was observing her from a distance and thought Hannah must have been drinking because she was that upset as she prayed!

The Bible reminds us that...

   The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose
       spirits are crushed. (Ps. 34:18)

   He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. (Ps. 147:3)

   The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
        and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. (Is. 61:1)

   Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that "they were crushed and overwhelmed 
        beyond their ability to endure" but they learned to rely on God during this time.
        And he goes on to say in chapter 4, verses 8 and 9 that...

       "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, 
               but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.  
               We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed."

To be perfectly honest, my first reaction is not to embrace the pain and allow God to truly heal the emotional pain. More often than not I lean toward feeling overwhelmed and crushed. I want Him to take the pain away. I want it to just go away. God could take it away, but He may want to use the pain as part of the healing process. If I seek ways to mask or avoid the pain I may delay healing.

As I was drafting this post, I read the following quote in Streams in the Desert...

"God seems to use the pressure of pain to trample out the 
fulfillment of His promises and thereby release the sweetest juice 
of His winepress. Only those who have known sorrow can 
fully appreciate the great tenderness of the 'man of sorrows.'"

It's comforting to know that Jesus understands our emotional pain. He wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. He also experienced the pain of rejection. So Jesus can certainly relate to any sort of pain you or I may experience.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Absence and Disappointments

I haven't done a lot of writing lately. The last time I posted on this blog (about six weeks ago) I alluded to some things going on in my life that kept me busy, but also some things that were testing my faith.

I have written only a little in my personal journal. Friends on Facebook may have noticed that I don't write/post as often there either. The easy answer is to say that I have gotten out of the habit of writing. Truth. But I've also been struggling to put words to what's been going on inside of me lately.

Each time I think to myself that I should write, I procrastinate and avoid thinking about it. I busy myself with anything else. I suppose avoidance is the main reason I haven't been writing. 

Today I decided to go back to the beginning of this blog and read the first post. It reminded me why I started this blog. I felt as if God was leading me to share things that I was learning as I journeyed through my life. Writing was as much for my own benefit (therapy) as it was for anyone else. I had no idea whether anyone would ever read my blog anyway.

You see, when I started this blog I was recovering from a broken heart over a failed relationship. To maintain some privacy, I have never mentioned that fact before on this blog. I also didn't want my blog to be all about that. I chose to write in general enough terms so that anyone going through difficult circumstances could relate.

The broken heart from two years ago has healed--mostly. I still struggle at times. I won't go into what's happened in the past two years because you can read previous posts on this blog and figure that out. To sum it up it has been a time of waiting, of learning, of praying, of more waiting, and this cycle has continued. 

During these past two years my relationship with Jesus has grown exponentially. I once had a spiritual mentor ask me if I had known what was going to happen before I met this guy, would I still have gone through with it? The answer then was yes. The answer now is still yes. Pain and all, Jesus is still worth it and He's made use of everything I went through.

Two months ago marked the two year anniversary of when that relationship officially ended. Something else changed about that time. This guy, who I still considered a friend, completely disappeared from my life. I had limited contact with him and we did not live in the same city so we never saw each other. However, without any explanation, he suddenly cut off all contact with me. 

Why should I care? Trust me. This doesn't make any sense without all the back story. But, having that door finally and completely closed like that was like a mild earthquake in my life. Yes, earth-shattering describes it. You see, I did not get the closure that I desired, that I had sincerely hoped and prayed for.

Yes, I had fervently prayed for some closure with this man--to clear the air--and had hoped to see that come to fruition. We had been good friends and I wanted to see that friendship return. When that door closed--and God allowed it to be closed--it was upsetting. After pondering my feelings of why I was so upset, I finally came to realize that my feelings were hurt. Not just by this guy, but by God. The truth was that I was disappointed in God.

This disappointment caused me to emotionally shut down in God's presence. Oh, I still read my Bible, I continued to read devotionals and attend church. I even prayed...some. Frankly, I was demoralized. I had lost some confidence and hope in God. When I was believing in Him for something I thought was a good thing and the answer I wanted did not materialize, it shook my faith. 

When it came to praying and asking God for anything I had come to a place of thinking to myself, What's the point? Why should I pray? He'll just say no again.
It reminded me of the time I asked a simple favor of a supervisor and I fully expected a yes based on our relationship and the fact that I rarely asked for favors like this. However, this one time I got a no. It was surprising and disappointing. It made me rethink my relationship with that supervisor and fearful of asking for favors ever again.

Where this situation with God was concerned, in my head I knew that I wasn't thinking correctly. But, my heart was disappointed and confused. My relationship with Jesus had grown to a point of knowing what to expect of Him. So when I didn't get the answer I expected, it was very confusing. I began to question everything that I had been through the past two years and I questioned my intimate relationship with Jesus. It really has been a time of soul-searching.

Then one day a few weeks ago I was scrolling through Facebook and happened to see a quote from an author that I follow. It said, "…the miracles in the authentic Gospels are about love, not power...Although Jesus’ miracles were far too selective to solve every human disappointment, they served as signs of his mission, previews of what God would someday do for all creation." The quote came from a book titled Disappointment With God by Philip Yancy

That was it! Seeing that quote and book title helped define what I'd been feeling for several weeks. I bought the e-book and have been reading it. I have found myself nodding in agreement over some of the things I'm reading. I've also found myself very convicted as I realize that this whole life isn't all about me. This has forced me to look at this world from God's perspective and imagine His disappointment with these people He created and how we always fall short. Imagine His disappointment with me! Wow. Talk about turning the tables on the situation!

I won't pretend that everything is "all better now." I am still working through all of these issues with God. I am still healing and learning and processing. And I have to remember to keep my hope in Christ and not in the outcome of a particular request. 

Keeping it real...