Monday, February 17, 2014

Nitty Gritty Monday- When Your Life Collides with Pain

I'd like to introduce you to my sweet blogger buddy, Wren. She has an amazing testimony that almost didn't make it to this blog! I think God just wanted her testimony to His love published today for some reason, instead of a few months ago! Wren's words touched my heart and I pray that they touch yours. God loves you, even in midst of pain and suffering!
 
What do you do when pain collides with your life?  I’m speaking here about life circumstances that bring you pain:  pain that hits your spirit, that takes your breath away, that connects on some level with a deep pain from your past that you’ve maybe even forgotten about.  The difficult experiences you’ve had with jobs, family members or friends, or losses that impacted your life and left you unsure and uncertain about how to proceed.  (Do you want to stop reading now?  If you do, I get it…I’ve been there myself! J)
 
I’ve been on a journey for the past 18 months that started with some ignored physical pain.  Eventually, that physical pain sent me to the hospital and resulted in two VERY unexpected and unplanned-for surgeries….followed by months of healing and recovery.  I’m truly thankful for God’s great healing in my physical body; but I’m also so appreciative for something unexpected He did during that time.  He gently and lovingly showed me some heart issues that I’d really been completely unaware of, that were impacting my daily abilities to live life and to love others and God.  But suddenly, when I could do so little besides rest and heal, there was time and space for me to see; to hear; and to take action in new ways.

I discovered that I was relatively inexperienced in dealing with pain, to my utter and complete surprise!  (I’d thought that I was extremely responsible and adult in all my dealings.  Not!)

Have you ever noticed that the habits we pick up in childhood can carry over quite completely into our adult lives?  Perhaps this is true for you, and perhaps not; but what I’ve seen in myself and in my dealings with God is that He carefully pulls me aside, shows me some wrong thinking or doing that often comes from a hurt or decision made in my younger years, and He reveals “the path of life” for me that is better:  HIS path of life. 

One of the crucial things I learned this year is that I used things and actions to deaden emotional pain I was feeling.  I dearly loved to read as a child, and I still do.  Now, certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with the activity of reading!  However, as I look back over my life, I can see that when I was cut to the heart with pain as a little girl, I sought escape from that pain by diving into imaginary stories of other people.  And you know, those lovely stories DID deaden that pain!  They made me forget what I was feeling.  They helped me to move on and to regain my footing, so to speak. 

What they did NOT do was help me heal.  Instead, the painful experiences got buried deep in my heart and covered over until, as I grew, they were simply forgotten and unrecognizable to me.  But, they were still there…and unbeknownst to me, they still influenced my thoughts, my behavior and my beliefs. 

As I grew to adulthood, I still loved to read, but I also discovered that I absolutely loved leadership, teaching and serving.  Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities!  And obviously each one can be an outworking of a spiritual gift that God has lovingly planted inside us.  What I found, though, was that the more I served in some way, the better I felt about myself; and as a side benefit, the less time or energy I had to think about painful or difficult things.  In many ways I spent years skipping from activity to activity, loving what I was doing….but wearing myself out in the process and never really having time to think, to hear or to heal.

When the Lord permitted me to be sidelined for a time due to those surgeries, He gave me an incredible gift.  Suddenly I was unable to DO anything.  No serving.  No outside teaching (although by His great grace and enabling, I was able continue to homeschool our son).  No leadership.  Nothing but time to sit, ponder, wonder, and be.  With God and with my family.  I quoted a portion of Psalm 16:11 above, and here’s what that entire verse says:

“You make known to me the path of life;
You will fill me with joy in Your presence,
with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”

As I had time and room to do little else besides be at home with my family, God created a place in my life where I could hear His still, small voice…and we began to look at those deep places of pain together, as He set me out on a new path.  I was able to process some of these in prayer with a beloved pastor, and others with my husband; still others on my own with the Lord in journaling or in prayer.  He also sent some wonderful books that helped me along in my process:  Margaret Becker’s Coming Up for Air; and Denise Hildreth Jones’ fiction book Secrets Over Sweet Tea and her nonfiction Reclaiming Your Heart.  These last two were especially crucial, because I learned that my strategies of coping via books and activities in the end didn’t heal the pain my heart was experiencing, they shut the pain, and consequently, my heart, down.  And I believe God’s desire is for us to experience life with hearts fully alive to Him and to others.  How else are we to love our God with ALL our heart, if parts of our hearts are deadened or shut down?

I have not mastered the art, completely, of fully living.  Yet I am on a journey with the God who loves me of finding that new path of His, that path containing fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.  Each time I experience a new difficulty, pain or problem, I have a choice.  Will I bring it to Him and seek the truth about it?  Will I feel the pain, even though it’s not particularly pleasant?  Or will I return to my old ways of deadening the pain through ignoring it by busying myself in other activities?

I certainly have that choice.  God isn’t going to force me to feel or do anything.  Yet He so desires to lead me in His way, and to enable me to walk through my difficulties wearing the easy and gentle yoke of Christ.  To help me not to lean on my own understanding, but to acknowledge Him in all my ways and allow Him to direct my paths.

My prayer these days when I hit a difficult patch, when I’m feeling pain myself or experiencing a troubling circumstance, is this:  “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me Your paths.  Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and in You is my hope all day long.”  (Psalm 25:4-5)  I ask God what He wants to show me; what is the truth about the situation or my feelings; and if there might be a lie I’m believing.  I haven’t mastered this yet, and sometimes I revert to my old ways without even noticing.  But freedom comes when I choose to walk through the difficulties with God….and on the other side of the struggles and even IN them, there is hope.

If any of this resonates with you, let me encourage you.  Get away to a quiet place, if you can.  Ask the Lord to open your eyes to see the things He’d desire to heal in you.  He will be so gentle and tender with you, but He will definitely lead you in truth.  Ask Him to connect you with faithful believing friends who will pray for you, who can counsel you.   Write down Scriptures that resonate, or thoughts He has that show you new things.  It may be difficult to walk it through….but remember the outcome:  “In Your presence is fullness of joy!”

Wren Reynolds seeks to live in God’s fullness of joy.  She is married to the best man ever, whom she met on the mission field, and they have one amazing son whom they’ve homeschooled from the beginning.  They love playing games together, eating good food, Marvel Superheroes and Lego.  You can find Wren at finchnwren.com.
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1 comment:

Stephanie Proctor said...

What a wonderful post. I am going to re-read this. So many things to digest and make a part of my healthy lifestyle. God bless you!!!! Thank you for sharing