Praying through the Pain

“Are you brave enough to pray and believe that God hears you and changes things?” 

Like a ton of bricks thrown at my heart, making it hard to breathe, I reel through pain that was just a shadow.  Maybe I have been hiding it for many years. Maybe I am good and pretending everything is fine, that I can muster up of the energy and positivity to get through my days.  

Except…there are days I am knocked on my knees with an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety about this life.  The voice that says, I messed everything up, it’s too late to change, I will forever feel this way, becomes louder.  The weight of the heavy reminder of pain of unanswered prayers, of hurt covered up by behavior modification or legalism. 

But NO, I am not brave.  Not even close.  I don’t believe that anything will change.

Faking it or just convincing myself otherwise no longer worked as it did for many years. The answers, the sermons mean nothing and I feel left alone in my darkness.  Some days, I can’t bring myself to sit and talk to God.  I don’t want to acknowledge the pain.  I want to run from it. 

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Struggling to sit in the pews and sing the songs without weeping uncontrollably.  It feels painful to sit in my pit of despair next to others who don’t know what to do with a puddle of someone next to them.  Maybe struggle isn’t the right word.  I think I just feel out of place.  Fighting this sense I must be crazy if I can’t just believe and live a neat and tidy life like those around me.  They seem to have zero problems, right? 

Sometimes I wish there as a point in the service where we could all just be honest about what we are struggling with right there before one another, that we would throw away pretence and posturing and truly know we are all in it with each other.

But I am not brave.   If I was to truly understand bravery, I would know that being brave means being honest with yourself and others.

And it means believing when everything around you tells you not to believe.  It is to believe even when no one else does.  When everything in your life says to abandon the belief and turn back. Bravery means to keep going through pain. 

It means standing in front of God, even when when the pain and darkness threaten you in that very moment, believing in a God that is stronger than the pain and darkness.  Believing that God is who he says he is and sent Jesus to overcome the world, so we wouldn’t be overcome by it.

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I write these words today because I myself need to believe them.  I probably do on some level today, but not on the level that I can write this without tears in my eyes.

I want to be that brave.  I want to be able to trust God so strongly that I can get up every day and not have to fake it and pretend that my heart isn’t broken or that I have it all together.  I want to be brave enough to not fight back tears or skip out of church early because I care too much what people think.

Abraham often comes to mind when I think of pain of the unanswered prayers or of years of uncertainty.

“In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (sine he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” – Romans 4:18-21

I am sure it was painful to walk through the day to day when this thing that God has promised hasn’t come true. Perhaps pushing him to make choices that caused more pain. Ridiculed, probably questioned, whispered about and left out of the circle of parents and grandparents. He probably lost friendships with those that had walked through the early years.

It isn’t just the pain from out side but the pain we cause ourselves. Within the darkness, the things we turn to for survival for some comfort or security, losing hope and faith in the day to day, only to be failed again. More pain, self inflicted.  The pain becomes the norm. We don’t want it but stay because everything else starts to feel like false hope. And to hope means to put yourself in a spot to be hurt again.  Cynical and bruised and broken.  Beaten up by the storms of this world.

But…I know a man, who could relate. Bruised and broken, betrayed and idolized. Those around him had thought he failed.  But he came to do what He was sent to do.  Dying the death we deserve.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Could this be, that God, in his Kindness sent his son, as a human man to experience the same kind of beating that we experience, so we would have a Savior that could relate? That can extend a kind of empathy that says, “Me too.”  The kindness that also gives us freedom to experience the pain, but with hope.  The hope of a Savior, that died so that this pain doesn’t last forever.

This life is not without pain, but it is partnered with the sweetness of knowing Jesus.  Know that our hope is not in our own efforts to not feel pain, but in the comfort of God in the midst of the pain.  And on the other side of that pain, whether on this earth or in eternity, it is the joy of knowing the great comforter.

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Without pain, we would not know the comfort of our Creator.

That is my prayer, that even if the pain doesn’t go away, even if nothing changes, that you and I would know the comfort, the kindness of our God in a sweeter and deeper way.  That we would know what it means to be loved by a God who is there, even in the midst of the darkest days.  Even when the pain is inflicted by ourselves, that we would allow Him to meet us in the pain, to dispense comfort and healing.

Can we brave enough to open ourselves up for healing?  Or even could we bravely take a step towards Him today, to be comforted even when nothing changes? 

 

 

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Change is hard

It is actually is hard. Really hard.  Whether it is your ways, your life, or even the people around you, it is a terribly hard thing.

I have found of all the things that I have to deal with as an adult, change is one of the hardest.  Sure it can be exciting and thrilling, but it is still hard.  

We get used to things.  We get used to our routes to work, the people we see on a daily basis. Then….things change. We move, things happen, people leave, and suddenly everything is different.  Maybe not bad or terrible, but different and we suddenly have to get used to everything again.

Were we disillusioned in thinking that after all that change from high school to college (where you move every year) that after all that, everything would just settle down and be normal and predictable? Maybe we thought that we wouldn’t have to encounter hard things like this? Probably.

In reality, life turns out so much different than we think or imagine, and can be so hard at times.

Me too

I had a conversation with a student about some of my co-workers that changed jobs. (Meaning they don’t work in my school anymore.) She came to school the first day and realized that they really weren’t there. Just new people.  This young lady was upset at them.  She was acting out and complaining about not having them to talk to anymore. Most likely in her immaturity, change doesn’t always make sense, and it feels like an attack against her and her life.

The funny thing is, I can remember feeling that way.  It was a couple of weeks ago.  Things were changing and people were leaving.  It felt like the life that I was very used to suddenly wasn’t the same anymore.  A dear friend moved away, I suddenly was living by myself, people were having ALL THE BABIES, and the school year was shaping up to be VERY different. I was so depressed about it.  Like the kind of depressed that I didn’t want to leave my house for a couple of days.

Fortunately, someone affirmed something in my soul..all of these changes were a loss.  And I needed to grieve over them.  If I just pretended everything was fine, I would stuff down all the sadness and hard emotions and not deal with them.  Un-dealt with things have a tendency to come back later to haunt you, right? So I had to face these losses and start the process of moving on.

In my conversation with this young lady, I told her this.  I told her I was sad too.  I missed my friends and it is hard when people leave.  I knew that she was thinking hard about this because she asked, “When does it get easier?” What do I say, when I myself am not yet quite out of it.

I told her that there isn’t a timeline, but every day it will feel just a little better.

In this situation it gets easier to live life without these people around, but does change ever really get easier.  Probably not. Change will always be a hard thing to deal with, but what I think is that we get better at dealing with it.  We learn to emotionally process the hard things we encounter.  We lean harder on the One who doesn’t ever change.

Promises

We were never promised an easy life.  We were promised an eternal one.  Our world screams at us, that if we work hard enough, we can create an easy life for ourselves.  We start to pursue it and find that it is just an empty promise, just like many of the other promises of this world.

Sometimes I think that God allows change and other hard things to happen in my life because I become complacent.  I become lazy in my pursuit of him.  He wants to remind me that I should be dependent on him more than anything in this world.  He does this to rip away my codependent tendencies I have with the ways of this world.

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

(Isaiah 41:13)

What a sovereign God that I serve that continues to desire for me depend on him.  He continues to draw me near to him and doesn’t let me get lost in the promises of this world. Which are enticing and seemingly good at times. He doesn’t let me stay there, he shifts something, he stirs up my life to pull me back to him.

I could get mad and angry at him, (I have and probably will again) that he lets hard things happen in my life, but He sees the big picture, he knows what is coming and he knows that more than anything I need to be leaning into him and holding on to the anchor in the midst of the storm of change.

For the better

My trainer told me once that our bodies figure out the most efficient way to move, and sometimes that means we don’t use all our muscles, then the muscles we don’t use get weak and we are prone to injury.  We have to change up what we do when we work out to use all our muscles.

Maybe our hearts and brains are like that.  Change can be good because we figure out the most efficient way to live, we become dependent on people and routines, and don’t actually live to our full potential. We sort of half live, because that is the easiest thing to do.

God knows this, he allows change to happen because he knows our hearts, he knows our weaknesses and wants to challenge us to live our lives to the fullest.

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Friend, perhaps you are staring down a big change that is happening or just happened.  You are struggling to deal, you are wanting to run away and avoid this hard thing.  I know the feeling.  I can’t always claim that I did the best to run to God, but know that the moments I did, it was better.  He sustains and helps.

How do you deal with change?  What do you do when things get hard in life?  What is change that is hard to deal with lately?

 

6 Truths about Change

For a long time, I used to fear change. (No not the dimes and pennies, I love those!)

No, I feared the way everything could suddenly be different than it was before.  I love to be able to count on things happening when they were supposed to happen, people to be the way they have always been. (You could probably attribute this to my excessive need for control and my idea that my way was right all the time.

This past year, I tried to fight it, I tried to hold on tightly to the things that were changing.  I ended up being bitter, angry and sad for much of the year.   
I ended up being worried that I had done something wrong with all the change. I was anxious and worried that I had somehow messed up my life plan.  



While processing all that has changed, I thought about some of these simple truths about change.  

1. It adds up.- The small things can suddenly be big.
In the 5 years that I have spent as a teacher in a public school, I have to had face change 5 times.  Every year is something different.  Every year we have new teachers, new policies and procedures.  Every year, I have something totally new to do in my classroom.
Sometimes all these little changes can get extremely overwhelming and exhausting, because learning new things is not easy.  It is hard, it requires work and dedication. It requires being uncomfortable for a short time or even a long period of time. Perhaps it means you have to step outside your comfort zone, embracing something you don’t initially like or understand.
However, sometimes…..sometimes those little things can add up to something good.  Like for instance, when I made little changes to my eating habits and physical activity and lost 90 lbs.
Then suddenly you realize one day that you/life/relationships are different than they were before. And you are thankful!
2. It always seems to happen at once.(Am I right, or am I right?)
Last year, I had a lot of changes coming up in the new year.  Not only in work but personally.  I was moving, living with more people.  I had to establish new routes to work, new running trails, new rhythms.  And I did it about the same time as the beginning of school. Last year, was a hard year, for many reasons, but mostly because of all the change all at once.  
Once the season of change passes, you are able to breath again, and look at things from a different perspective. Many times some of those changes are good ones, and when things slow down you can enjoy them.  In the end, you come out the other side different, changed, usually for the better.
3. The big ones hurt the most.  
Sort of like if you threw a handful of actual change (cents) at someone, the quarters would probably hurt the most.
Seriously though, the big changes (marriage, kids, moving, new jobs, loss of jobs) always seem to throw you like a giant wave crashing on you.  You don’t know if you will survive.  These are the ones that seem to shift your life course dramatically.  In these times you might begin to question and wrestle and even doubt your life choices.
The moving part of me was my big thing.  I got hung up on this change, suddenly it felt like moving into a house with 3 other single women was a giant step back from where I wanted to be. This sent me into a tail spin of questioning and doubting and rethinking what was next for me. 
The blessing that I didn’t forsee is that I did begin to rethink and question what was next for me.  I began to dream different dreams and uncover hopes I didn’t know I had. 
4. It won’t destroy you. 
Oh you think it will.  You think that this change, will be your death.  Many times, I dramatically would exclaim to my mother that my life was over, because this and this had changed.  
For example, when I was overwhelmed with graduating college and moving on, I was sad to leave my community of friends.  
“You will make new friends.” She would say.
“I…don’t…want….new friends!” I would sob into the phone.

But she was right. (I would never admit that.) I did make new friends, and dig into my old friendships in deeper ways.  
Much like how God promises to refine us by fire, to prune us so that we may grow. (Ps 66:10-12; John 15:1-6) But it is all so that He can make room for something else, whether that be so we bear fruit or to live in a place of abundance.
 
5. You need an anchor.
Much like a ship, when times of trouble are rolling in, you need an anchor.  You need something to keep you grounded, from drifting off course. 
Change sometimes can tap into our deepest fears, can cause more anxiety.  We want security and comfort, change threatens both of those things. So much like a ship in a storm, we need to rely on our anchor to remind of our true security and comfort.  
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,” – Hebrews 6:19
When change is whipping you around like the winds of a storm, remember the one who is your anchor of hope that doesn’t change.  He is our constant, our comfort, our security. 
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

6. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.
I have a wonderful, beautiful friend, who I admire greatly because she takes many changes in stride.  Something unexpected happens, she just rolls with it. She walks in grace for herself and the situation.  “It’s life.”- she says. 
(I imagine that is one of those qualities I skipped over in my frenemy Proverbs 31) 
We have to be able to sometimes just jump on a surfboard and ride the waves of change.  We have to see where it takes us and choose excitement  instead of fighting it.  (Now, I am sure that is in a surfers instruction manual somewhere!)

What about change is hardest for you? Do you roll with it or fight it? Or do you have anthem or motto that gets you through?
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