Longings and Pain

When denying pain doesn’t work, I find myself wanting to escape it through my longings.

What longings does pain awaken in you? Are you catching sight of the passions that have the greatest control over you? Maybe it’s a passion for being special, doing something significant, having security, being supple and stretchable, being connected and intimately known, being sexually fulfilled, finding self-actualization, or even being spiritually formed. The realization of how such passions drive you— how they, rather than God himself, have become your Mecca of Happiness—points you to God and to whatever is blocking deeper communion with him. 

Daniel BushUndefended 

When I ask myself the question, what do I really long for, I’d like to believe that my first answer would be God. 

But I’m still a broken human being who is a work in progress. 

And I am not home yet. 

I confess my heart still longs for things on this earth. 

Those longings become crystal clear especially when I am in pain. I want to run to them to escape. 

I am amazed at how my default mode is still to flee from experiencing pain and disappointment. If I can convince myself that everything is fine then my mind can be put to rest temporarily. But when things get out of my control it isn’t as easy to pretend that everything is fine. 

When denying pain doesn’t work, I find myself wanting to escape it through my longings. 

Not too long ago, I was a part of a ladies support group led by a counselor.  Our leader taught us about pain and how important it is to learn how to deal with it. 

The way that we deal with pain is extremely important in how healthy our lives are. 

If you’ve read my story,  you know that my own pain over ten years ago caused me to reach out to my former pastor for help. However, instead of leading me to the Lord, he led me down a path of escaping my pain through a spiritually abusive relationship. 

But for years I had no clue that the relationship was abusive. 

I believed that it was good. 

I believed that having him as a father figure in my life relieved the pain of my childhood abuse. 

I believed when he told me that he loved me everything wrong in my life was made right. 

I believed when he embraced me for the first time that I’d found the security my heart had always desperately searched for. 

I believed when he told me I was special that I really was. 

I believed when I was with him that I truly belonged. 

I have come to understand after three years of therapy, that the desires I had were not the problem. 

The desires were God’s desires that He had placed in me.  

It is not part of God’s plan for any child to be abused. 

He created us to be loved, kept safe, and nurtured into the unique person He made us to be. 

But evil stole these things away from me before I even knew who I was. 

It’s pretty clear looking back that my former abusive pastor had some major pain that he was escaping, too. But he denied that that was true. In our final conversation,  he was still insisting that love for me had been his motivation for every choice he’d made, even the wrong ones. 

I was so confused when he told me this. I questioned my own sanity. 

But since that time I’ve come to understand the truth; escaping our pain through desires that God placed in us in the wrong ways can cleverly deceive us into believing and justifying that what we are receiving is good. 

Our hearts can be so easily led astray. 

But even in my deception there was something I could never reconcile in my mind completely, and it was that what brought me relief was something God said not to do.  

After wrestling with God for almost a decade over the dishonesty in my life, God finally won the battle.  The pain had become unbearable despite my best efforts to escape it. 

The suffocating lies of the deception with the pastor had become more painful than the pain I’d been trying to initially escape. 

And my heart longed more than anything else to be free. 

Freedom from the lies brought instant relief.  Telling the truth for the first time to my counselor on the phone enabled me to truly breathe.  

But the underlying pain that drove me into the abusive relationship with the pastor was still there, and the way the church handled my confession by exposing me just heaped on more pain. (On a side note, I’ve learned from The Hope of Survivors that the majority of churches deal with spiritual abuse in a way that brings more pain to the victims. I pray to God that He would show the church this is not His way!) 

And I was still left with the question of how I was going to deal with all the pain. 

The realization of how such passions drive you— how they, rather than God himself, have become your Mecca of Happiness—points you to God and to whatever is blocking deeper communion with him. Daniel Bush

The answer was always closer than I had dared to look. I was so close when my pastor hugged me and said he loved me and made me feel like I belonged. I was standing on the precipice of the truth in the moment of being honest about my pain and brokenness and need. For the first time in my life when I was with him I truly saw the one thing God created me for. Love. But then I got pushed into the ditch. 

Relationships with others are never meant to replace our relationship with God. 

But thank God He brought people into my life since that time who pulled me out of the ditch and have reminded me over and over again that He has made me clean. 

My husband who has been honest about his own struggles and listened to me through my own.  It hasn’t always been easy or pretty being married to each other, but by the grace of God and His truth we’ve managed to overcome so much. 

My counselor and friend, Sharon Hersh, has been there for three years faithfully every week. I cannot thank her enough for the constant love she has given in her time. 

Podcasts like the ones at Key Life ministries have encouraged my heart daily and spiritually fed me when nothing made any sense. 

Books by broken people like Daniel Bush who have not been afraid to share have helped me to know that I am not alone. 

A faithful friend in ministry who has encouraged me without expecting anything in return whenever I’ve needed help.  

And finally a church where people are honest about their struggles and teach the Gospel faithfully every week. 

All of these things are sources of His love, but they are never meant to replace it. 

I think as long as I live on this earth my weakness will be to turn to others to fulfill the longings of my heart especially when I am in pain.  

Human nature is messy and we desperately need our Savior every moment to give us grace so we will only worship Him. 

But at the end of the day, the best thing we can do is be honest with ourselves, honest with others and honest with God about the struggles we face.  And continue to preach the Gospel to one another, because it’s the only fulfillment of our longings and real relief for our pain. 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.

John 15:12‭-‬14 ESV


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