Existing Authentically in Pain

Every time a new trial shows up in your life, it seems that the door opens for opinion and commentary from just about everyone. If only you would draw closer to God, they say, troubles would leave you. Just read your Bible more and pray without ceasing. God will surely remove the calamity.

Other times we tell each other “you could have made mistakes in the past and these trials are the repercussions of your sin”… as if those on the other side of trouble have some sort of psychic mind into God’s plan for that particular person’s suffering. I’m sure you could list other examples of well-meaning advice you have received that you felt stopped short of reaching your heart where it’s really at.

What if we haven’t sinned in a way to provoke God’s hand? What if we are reading our Bibles and praying to God faithfully? If trouble comes, what then? If your best friend who teaches Sunday school, sings in the choir, leads a prayer group, volunteers at the homeless mission, keeps a neat house and cooks like Betty Crocker finds out that her husband has been brazenly unfaithful to her despite her nearly perfect wifely existence… what then? What constructive “Christian” advice do we give?

Well, there’s always the good ole Christian pep talk. “Count it all joy! It’s in the valleys we grow! Chin up, sister! Remember, God’s got a plan! He’s in control!” None of these things are technically wrong, but sometimes timing our conversation is everything. Our words can be confusing and frustrating for someone with fresh wounds. It’s almost as if as Christians, we don’t grant each other permission to exist in the reality of our suffering.

Existing authentically in our pain is better than denying it or putting on a brave face for the sake of keeping up the appearance that all is well in God’s kingdom. Believe it or not, it’s actually okay to admit that we’re hurting, admit that suffering is painful and that life is not a bed of roses. We learn through suffering that God will extend His protection, provision, refuge and guidance.

When I say “existing authentically,” I’m not talking about throwing a tantrum or wallowing endlessly. But when you’re coping with the troubled reality that is your life God wants to know. He wants you to be honest with Him about how much it hurts, how out of control you think it is, how hopeless you feel, how vulnerable you are.

You may feel guilty telling God how you really feel about your Job-like revolving door of challenging heartache. You may feel somehow ungrateful admitting your anger, or that if you start telling God what’s going on in your heart the tears will never stop. But I promise you, you have permission to be exactly that–broken and sobbing at God’s feet. God wants you in a place where, like Job, you realize in faith that “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15)

Let us grant ourselves and others the permission to live in the storm. Let us no longer give pat answers to major trials in each other’s lives. We don’t always have all the answers, but we can lean on each other for comfort and point to God as the true comforter, the One who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Pat answers, no. A shoulder to cry on, yes. This is a more true picture of friendship.


Originally published in the Fall 2011 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter


A Plan in the Process of Pain

I recently saw the Makeover Week episode of The Biggest Loser. The contestants have been working very hard to lose weight all season and on this episode their new bodies were treated to makeovers. When the makeover process was complete, each contestant was blessed with a surprise visit from a family member or friend.

One woman walked out in her sparkly strapless ball gown, looking like a princess right off the Disney screen. Her Dad was there waiting. He stared at his beautiful daughter, hugged her and stared some more in proud awe. What surprised me was the woman’s reaction in this moment. She didn’t appear to enjoy this like you would expect. Her tears welled up. She looked at her father and hugged him silently. Her eye contact and body language communicated for her.

“I did it, Daddy. I’m finally beautiful, I can’t even believe this is me!” she seemed to say. In disbelief, she simply stood there and sobbed.

What a ‘eureka’ moment for me! All the times I’ve conquered a battle in my life have been sweet–but not as sweet as the stunning realization that I made it through. My mind and emotions replay all it took to get there: the blood, sweat and tears paid, the hard times endured, the testing, the suffering, the desperation, the hopeless moments of asking “why do I even try?”

But I did make it through! God carried me through and I was better for it! I was stronger, more hopeful, more beautiful–in ways that cannot fade with age. He had a purpose and He blessed me even in my afflictions.

…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5, NIV

We appreciate our suffering not because it’s easy and painless but because God provides for our needs. He never abandons us and carefully grows us, prunes us. He created us so He knows what it will take to make us more patient, committed, graceful, forgiving, etc. And as we clear each of our hurdles in life, God then uses us to help others to clear their hurdles. It’s a beautiful thing!

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1 that the God of all comfort comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort He has given us. We endure that we might help others endure.

My prayer is that this gives you hope. God has a plan even for your painful processes. See your way to God and His loving, protecting arms even if you can’t possibly see to the other side of your battle. He will take your right hand and say “Do not fear, I will help you”. And when your storm has been weathered, when your battle is won, you can grab the hand of someone else still struggling and exclaim, “I did it! Because of my Father!” glorifying God by pointing another weary soul to Him for help.

Originally published in the Summer 2011 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter


Being Shatterproof

In my first few weeks as a Christian I experienced the incredible power of God healing
diseases in my mind and body–a powerful experience to be sure. But with triumph came
adversity from within my own family. A wise friend told me, “When you’re under attack
from the enemy and the Holy Spirit throws open the doors of your ‘spiritual armory’
looking for weapons to use in the battle, you don’t want Him to find an empty cabinet!”

This useful illustration helped me grasp how non-negotiable Bible reading is for the
Christian. If I didn’t prioritize my Scripture reading and put God’s truth and promises
in my heart, there wouldn’t be anything for the Spirit to draw from when I came under
attack. In those early years in my walk with God the trials and hardships intensified
greatly, had I not followed the instructions of my spiritual mentors I would have surely
shattered. But falling to pieces is not God’s plan. We have His power, His strength to
draw upon.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Who would benefit from your shattering to pieces when trouble comes? Certainly not you
or your family, only the enemy of this world—the one Jesus calls a thief.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.  John 10:10

It can be down right debilitating to handle loss, uncertainty, pain and suffering. We are
so weak and so incapable, but being broken by God during these times of trial doesn’t
mean we have to fall to pieces. It all comes down to trust.

Gulp… Trust, I know. Us women are just so great at this, right? Hear me out. How would
your experience in suffering various trials change if when trials came you forced yourself
to look upon Psalm 91 and focused on God’s protection?

The first two verses speak of trusting God to protect us and finding rest in that trust.
Have you ever wished that you could just experience rest, if just for a moment? Does it
seem impossible? It doesn’t have to be. I challenge you to bask in the warm protection
of Psalm 91 and memorize it for life’s toughest times. The tender picture of protection in
Psalm 91 is available to all of us.

God will never leave you, God will not forsake you and God will not abandon you in
the midst of your suffering. All the cracks remaining in you afterward are evidence that
while you may have been broken, you certainly did not shatter irreparably. You were
broken by God’s hands. And in God’s hands, you will be held together. You will be
protected. You will be safe. You will not shatter.


Originally published in the Spring 2011 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter