Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cure For Pain

Oh my God, can I complain? You take away my firm belief and graft my soul upon Your grief.”
- Jars of Clay

Every blog post I have written over the past 6 months has been born out of an intense struggle. This one is no different. It is my attempt at honesty over something that keeps me awake at night.

One of the things that frustrates me most is seeing people I love struggle and hurt. I know part of it is because I feel like I should be able to stop it (which is usually a foolish idea, as previously discussed). Part of it is simply that there is something in me that feels pain from the people around me the way other people hear their voices. It’s like a scent I can’t avoid. Another factor is that I have spent so much time focused on the hurt in people that I have simply forgotten that happiness and ordinary life exist.

There is a popular prayer in the Christian culture right now. It is a prayer that says “God, break my heart for the things that break Yours.” I think that if we actually realized what that would actually feel like, we wouldn’t throw it around so much. I am often terrified to pray that, because when He answers, it feels like more than I can bear. One of the hard things about understanding that there is only One thing that can make you whole is that you become acutely aware of how broken everything else is. And sometimes I spend so much time mourning that I lose focus. It’s not hard. There is a lot to mourn about.

The age-old problem of pain is one that I think we will wrestle with all our lives. For me, I see it everywhere. I see it in the painfully awkward family trying to keep their arguments down to whispers in a store. I see it in my friends who do not understand yet how much their lives are worth. I see it in my own family. I see it in Japan, in Libya, in Egypt. I see it in the dim-lit clubs, screaming with the electric guitars. It pounds against the walls of my heart day after day.

I would do anything to drown it out. I write words, I pray countless prayers through sleepless nights, I listen to songs and play songs, I give money, but I know that I am barely making any kind of dent. Even in the times when I feel like God has used me most, I know that there are so many places I will never, ever be able to go. Sometimes it overwhelms me until I can barely breathe.

The world is broken.

Heaven knows, heaven knows— I tried to find a cure for the pain. Oh my Lord! To suffer like You do— it would be a lie to run away.

- Jon Foreman

Over the past several months, my faith has often felt like a burden because of this. I can’t stand seeing how broken the world is, knowing we are called to shine into that brokenness, and knowing that still some will see that light and not understand. I can’t stand breaking over the things that break God’s heart. It’s hard.

I can’t pretend to offer many answers for this. I am still fighting. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them. For myself though, there are a few things I have been learning (however slowly).

First is the simple fact that God is not just a God who says “look how broken My world is.” He is also a Comforter. He might allow my heart to break, but He will meet me in the midst of that. Jesus asks us to lay down our lives, but He has already given us hope, comfort, and peace through laying down His. I am prone to forget this, to pretend it doesn’t exist and thus to shut Him out.

Another thing I am learning is that I absolutely cannot function when I spend every moment of every day focused on the things that hurt. Yes, I am called to love, even in (especially in) the dark. But I have a tendency to focus on the darkness to the point where I lose perspective. Reality fades out. I have been reminded of how good I am at deceiving myself in this way over the past few weeks. When my family drove to Atlanta, there were some very hard situations I was dealing with. But in the midst of that, I had friends there who provided a safe place for me to come back to every day, friends who are like light and water when I am blind and thirsty. It amazed me.

This was echoed again this past weekend. A friend was visiting from out of state, and over the few days that we had with her we had some incredibly good conversations that were hopeful and brave. We also spent time just talking about movies and stories, watching music videos, and laughing. It was incredible. It was like being reminded of an entire half of existence that I had completely forgotten about.

We are broken, we are worn so thin. But somehow there is Light that fills these shells and glows through our broken skin.

There is a reminder I was given that I have had to repeat over and over again in the past few months-- the joy of the Lord is your strength.

I am fighting, I am struggling, I am so very tired. But I am learning that I will never get anywhere until I understand that strength to face this terrible darkness has to come from something outside of my own resolve. It has to come from Light. It has to come from Joy.

And when I am resting in that, then I have the strength to keep going. Then I can consider it an honor and a privilege to stand in the darkness, throwing handfuls of stars at the vast expanse of black night sky, praying that a few of them will stick.

There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart but erase your fears...”
- Mumford & Sons

Peace to you.
- Elraen -


ironicdaisy said...

Good perspective, beautiful post. I also tend to become so overwhelmed with the heavy and dark that I forgot about the light...and you know, that is just as bad as being blind to pain. I think I get scared of happiness, in a weird way, because it seems like it would make the tragedy of life invalid. But it doesn't. Being light and love and joy in the middle of suffering is one of our great privileges as Christians. We ought to smile. We know a God who gives us every reason to...we know that the losers will win and the lost will be FOUND. So sometimes I think that the biggest problem with pain is our unwillingness to see both sides of the coin. Yes, there is suffering. But there is also an end to suffering. We ought to never become so burdened by pain that we don't allow ourselves the glorious, glorious blend of joy-pain in healing.

Tim and Chrissy G. said...

Girl, you are all kinds of amazing. Thank you for letting me get a glimpse into your incredible heart. I have also felt the darkness around me become so clear that I can feel a tangible weight of other's burdens and can scarcely breath from the pain of it. You are an altogether amazing woman because of the way you let God use you. I treasure your sweet smiles in the hallway when I am feeling blue. I'm praying for you. Seriously, right now. Thank you for letting me be a small part of your life.

Eclectic Elegance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eclectic Elegance said...

Wow! I prayed a very similar prayer to the one you mentioned back in 2006 or 2007--I asked Jesus to help me to better understand what hurts His heart and to help me get a better glimpse of what He suffered for me. Then a few months later, I wanted to take my words back. Now, I think some of my painful experiences have given me perspective, but I totally agree with you--praying that prayer, asking God to break our hearts with the things that break His, is not something to be taken lightly. I really appreciated the perspective you bring to this at the end. Thank you for posting! :)

Becca said...

Joy is such an important thing in this (as is hope, which tends to go with joy :P). Joy and hope is what makes us different. It's what points to our Savior and how He heals. Jesus came to give us life, not to burden us with sorrow. Yes, we should not ignore the pain in this world. But, like you said, it shouldn't be our only focus. It's a balance. Seeing and feeling for those in pain, while having a deep-rooted hope through it all.

Interesting thing: in the midst of driving between lessons today, I started praying for you to be able to experience more joy and hope. I hadn't read this post yet. Must be a God thing. ;)

So. :) Know that I'm praying for you! *hugs*