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. 

7334554_75e99fcef4

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.

21910990630_31e45c8d20

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.

40940183480_b47da8369c

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? 

 

 

photo credit: chrisotruro Lime Avenue bw via photopin (license)

photo credit: eye2eye In Living Color via photopin (license)

photo credit: Pascal Rey Photographies DSC_4523 via photopin (license)

Advertisements

Being Alone is a Choice

Five years ago, I penned these words, I hope I can get to 30 and be okay.

I was concerned at that time by life.  I was concerned about things turning out the way that I thought they would.  30 seemed so far away.  It seemed like an ancient age.  It seem like something that wasnt going to happen.  More than that I was concerned about still being single at 30 and that I would be alone.
However, one of the biggest lessons I have learned in the last 5 years.
Being alone is a choice. 
photo credit: via photopin (license)
We live in a world with so many people.  We live in big and small cities.  We encounter people on the subway, in the grocery stores.  We have waiters, and flight attendants.  Most people work with other people. 
There are plenty of people around, so being alone is something you choose.
We choose to look at the ground when we pass by someone.  We choose to put headphones in when in a coffee shop.  We choose not to say hi to someone.  We shut our front doors and avoid our neighbors.  We keep company with Netflix.
We choose to be alone.
Friends, I made a choice in my 20s that I will only be alone if I choose it.  I will have people around if I make a choice to let them be around me.  I make a choice to live with a roommate.  I make a choice to respond to a text or an email from a friend.  I make choice whether to call my mom back.
I make a choice to answer the questions How are you?with more than Fine. I make a choice whether or not to engage in a conversation with the barista or just ignore them and stay on my phone.
Because of those choices, I find myself surrounded by people.  I find myself surrounded by friends who bless me every day.
At one point in my life I had this huge fear that when people figured out who I really am, they wouldnt want to be my friend.  So I would pretend to be someone else.  I would try to tone down who I was.  I tried to be other people.  It didnt work.  It was only frustrating and would lead to a lot of anxiety. 
When I let those walls down and let people in, I found that my friends really did love me for me.  They really did care about me.  I let them love me in the way they know how and I loved them in my own way.  When that freedom happened, I didnt feel so alone.
I felt apart of something. I felt like I belonged.  And isnt that what we all long for, to be apart of something, to belong. 
Now at my 30th birthday, I am struck how amazing my life is. More than I could have asked for, or imagined.  Exactly in the style of the Lord. 

What started with me inviting people over for dinner on a weekly basis has turned into some of my most rewarding friendships. Some have moved away and moved back, but it provided an opportunity to let each other into our lives. 
Friends, we live in a culture filled with ways to form connections with people.  You can be physically alone but be connected to people 24/7.  It isnt hard to connect on the surface with people.
There are so many excuses for this. 
Work is crazy these days.
I am exhausted all the time.
I live in a big city and it is so hard to get connected.
No one has similar interests as me.
“No one really understands me.”
These are excuses. These are things we say to ourselves because we making finding our people hard.
IT can be hard and sometimes scary.  Let me tell you.  Sometimes I want to give it up because people are complicated and they can hurt you and have messy dramatic lives.  But what is the alternative.  To be alone forever.  What sort of life do you want to lead?  
So many people are craving it,  I want community.  I want to find people that really know me and I them.
Then do it.  Then make the choice to be involved in peoples lives. Make connecting a priority.   Be brave and introduce yourself to someone, ask them to get some coffee, beer or pizza.  (Most people like pizza.)  Yep it might be super scary and they might say no.  But they might say yes. 
In the end though, letting people in your life and letting yourself be known and loved by friends and family is a part of the human experience that I wouldn’t give up.  Because when life’s storms hit and they will, those are the people that will be your life raft. Don’t give up on people after hard times, that is usually when it gets good.  The depth of connection increases after the storm. 
Friends, what is holding you back from finding those people to live life with? If you don’t already have a community of people, what could you do to start to form it?

Good Friends=Comfy Sweatshirt

I am currently sitting in a coffeeshop (Stella’s) in Denver, pretending I live here. (I do this often when I am in another city, it perhaps is my favorite traveling activity. I think I am adding “Sit in a coffeeshop in every city I visit” to my bucket list.) I am visiting a friend on my Spring Break. This is a friend that I have had for about 5 years of my life. I hate that she lives so far from me but I am so excited to see her. (Her husband is cool as well. He would be upset if I didn’t mention him too.)

So this is a post about friends…good friends. For the longest time, I kept my friends outside some walls I built around my heart, I was afraid that if they really knew me they wouldn’t love my anymore. Friends are risky, but worth it.

*************************************

When I was younger, as in middle school, I longed for really good friends. All my childhood friends became cool and popular and I was neither of those things.

So…

I longed for a Best Friend….
that I could tell all my secrets to
that I could have sleepovers with
that I could talk to for hours and hours
that friend that I called her mom my 2nd mom and she did the same
that friend that would be over my house all the time or mine hers
(Like on Boy Meets World or Full House)
that best friend that everyone knew was my best friend.

I longed for friends that I could have easy conversation, that would know me and I would know them. I used to pray for this kind of friend to enter my life.

When I went to college, that was my one goal, to meet my best friend. Other girls, they wanted to find their husband. I just wanted friends.

And friends I did find.

I found friends that I could have fun with.
….friends that pushed me out of my comfort zone.
….friends that I could sit in silence with
….friends that I could spill my guts to (I need friends that are good listeners…I talk through everything.)
….friends that wanted to be around me. (I hope this is true…I have never asked them.)
….friends that loved me for me even when I am hard to love (which I think is pretty often)

Lately, I have had some rough patches with friends and I think that happens as time goes on and we change or make changes to our lives. However, if they weren’t good friends they wouldn’t call me out on my crap or be willing to talk through issues. This I know to be true.

I am not one to give up on friends and hopefully they won’t give up on me.

I have been also meeting new friends/expanding my social circle. As great as it is to meet new people because they have no idea about who I used to be and I have a clean slate with them….

……There is something though about friends who have known you for a while, good and bad moments, that you can let down your hair and relax. It’s priceless. Sort of like this… video of Adele and her best friend.

*****************************************
As for my sweatshirt analogy…

I have this K-State sweatshirt that I bought my last year on campus. It is way too big for me now, but I still love to wear it because it is comfy and feels like a warm blanket. I love to wear it on a chilly Saturday morning or wear it when I am sick. And no matter how many other jackets or sweatshirts I get, this one is the one I go back to.

Spending time with friends who really know me and care about me is like putting on that sweatshirt. It is comforting and keeps me warm. They really know me and encourage me. It nice to have easy conversation, plenty of things to talk about, mutual friends to relate stories about, and just relax around.

Good friends provide you with a sense of belonging. I think we all long for that. We are built/created to want to belong somewhere, that’s why God created community. We need it even when we don’t want it, we need people.

My question to myself after writing all this is….as good of friends that I have…am I that good of a friend? Just a thought to reflect on.

Do you have friends that are a like a comfy sweatshirt? Are you that friend?