Joy

Demons love to be analyzed…

Someone coined the phrase a long time ago, Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.

For the past four years, I have learned to accept that most of my days will be spent getting by, sometimes wondering if I will make it and other days thinking I might not; every day asking God to help me get through to the other side of this grief.

I did not realize until recently how very accustomed I have become to just the struggle of getting through. It has become the devil that I know. It has become in many ways what is comfortable to me.

But recently I started to experience something that has been almost foreign to me. Something that is almost impossible to experience when one’s heart has been numbed by grief. Joy.

Much more than happiness. It does not flee as fast. It takes root in one’s heart and begins to grow ever so slowly as one begins to hope.

Yesterday, after a conversation with my daughter I realized she felt it, too. And she was scared to death of losing it. Scared to death that it would slip through her fingers like so many things have.

How can one wait patiently for joy to grow? My heart cries out, Please God do not let me be disappointed again! I’d rather stay here with the devil I know than have to deal with one that I don’t. I’d rather be numb than to experience life only to have it squashed out again by death.

The doubts begin to bombard me as soon as joy breaks through.

What if it’s all a lie?

What if you are being deceived again?

A fellow blogger shared a quote yesterday. Her blog is called The Holy Absurd. I highly recommend it for anyone who’s struggling and needs to find hope and know they are not alone. The quote was from Henri Nouwen’s book Love, Henri. He said, We’ll never overcome the demons by analyzing them, but only by forgetting them in an all-consuming love for God. Demons love to be analyzed because it keeps our attention directed to them.

Demons love to be analyzed…

I analyze what I know and what I don’t know. I have indeed been wrong before. Once I believed I found joy, but it was a mirage in the desert. It only appeared to be the real thing to my dry and thirsty soul. But the pursuit of it almost killed me. The devil will not let me forget. Ambivalence sets in as doubts arise begging to be analyzed.

God, please help me!

Stop fighting.

Stop analyzing.

Be still.

Trust.

He promises living water.

Faith is the evidence of things unseen.

The devil I don’t know isn’t a devil at all.

It’s merely hope unseen.

Joy growing just beneath the surface of a heart that’s felt dead for too long.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

Joy comes when desire breaks through the hardened surface of a grieving heart. To care again is a huge risk. It’s more terrifying than anything I know. My daughter’s tears caused me to see this. To love is to at all is to risk losing it all again. It is not safe. But to not love is worse than death.

God, help us to not be afraid to love again.

I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
John 15:11‭-‬15 MSG

Photo credit

The Fellowship of Suffering 

In the fellowship of our sufferings with Jesus and each other, we bring true relief to our pain through hope. 

​While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:7‭-‬10 NLT

Last night after watching a recent episode of This is Us, I found myself wondering why we work so hard to avoid pain?  One of the main characters, Jack, in the show is an alcoholic. He shares with his wife in a scene what he is learning in AA. He tells her the only way to get to the other side of his struggle with alcoholism is to learn how to sit in the pain of his childhood, and it is clear how difficult it is for Jack to do this. Opening up our hearts to feel pains we have worked so hard to avoid in our lives, can feel like an overwhelming flood in which we will drown. The reality is pain, especially the pain of our past is excruciatingly painful and causes us to feel weak and out of control. It is understandable that we’d want to avoid this feeling as much as possible, but Jack has gotten to the place in life where he knows he could lose everything if he does not. 

I will never forget the tsunami of crushing emotions that hit me with such force when I began to open up to my former pastor about the childhood sexual abuse my mind had suppressed for over thirty years.  When the memories began to resurface, I wanted to do anything I could to get relief from the pain. 

I believed I had found my relief clinging to the pastor who said he was trying to help me, but who I later discovered was actually helping himself.  But being with him gave me moments that made me feel safe and in control of my emotions, which is the reason I stayed in the abusive situation for so long. 

I realize as I write this that probably the worst part of feeling pain is how out of control it causes me to feel. In these moments,  I become a little girl who was being forced to do things she never wanted to do. And she would give anything to escape. It was not the life she was intended to live. It was a nightmare she could not wake up from. And who does not want to escape that? But as a child, the incidious evil done to me was inescapable, and I had to cling to whatever control I had, which meant I blamed myself somehow.  As an adult, I do not live in the nightmare of my childhood anymore, but when I haven’t reconciled the truth that the pain of the horrible things that were done to me were not my fault, I continue to be stuck in believing this lie. The only way to see the truth is to allow myself to experience the pain of what someone else did to me. 

The reality is the things we cling to to escape our pain only bring about more abuse.  I know because I stayed stuck in this cycle for almost ten years.  I am grateful to be on the other side of the abusive relationship with my former pastor pastor. Grateful to have escaped the lies that were suffocating me. However, I still find myself wanting to escape the pain of it all. But just like Jack, I have come to the place in my life where I know that I cannot do it anymore.

The biggest question of all is what can I do with my pain? Where can I process it and be safe? How can I grieve without drowning in the tsunami of it all? Especially when the person who I believe was safe to process it with was not safe? 

A friend in ministry messaged me a couple of days ago offering to process some of the things I’m struggling with about the church with me.  I don’t know if anyone, especially those in ministry, can understand how painful church can be for those who were abused in the church.  As Christa Brown describes in her book This Little Light, trusting the church again feels like you are going to fall on the same sword that you were cut with.  Even working with people in a therapeutic environment every day who have given their lives to helping others does not feel safe at times, because a man who I thought was going to help me actually harmed me even more. 

Suffering from spiritual abuse can feel very lonely at times. 

Reading the last paragraph I just wrote feels a little like a pity party to me. But I remind myself it’s not. It’s me recognizing the pain that I feel inside and allowing myself to feel it.  It is part of the process that I am learning to embrace with self-compassion, which plays a huge part in delivering me from the lie that the abuse I suffered was all my fault.  

If you were abused, it is not your fault either. 

I continue to be exceedingly grateful for others in my life who share stories so similar to mine. You have suffered in the same ways that I have, and some days you are the only ones who feel safe to me. We have shared in the fellowship of suffering together. We have felt stronger when we are together. 

Today, I am reminded of Someone Else who suffered from spiritual abuse. Religious leaders got Him nailed to the cross, and that puts those of us who suffer as a result of spiritual abuse in good company.  Jesus understands our sorrow more than anyone else can. 

He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death.

Jesus did not want to experience pain either. He prayed for relief. And His Father heard him. And Jesus became the source of our eternal salvation. He became our High Priest. 

Because of Christ’s sufferings, we are promised ultimate relief one day from our pain. However,  Jesus did not escape pain, rather He faced it for us.  And whenever we face our pain, we accomplish the same thing for each other. 

In the fellowship of our sufferings with Jesus and each other, we bring true relief to our pain through hope. 

Thank you to all who share their painful stories, who reenter your nightmares and share them with us.   Your pain has not been wasted.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10‭-‬11 ESV

Helping Those Who Are Traumatized by the Church 

Traumatized people need to know first that God cares about their pain.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord ’s favor has come. ”

Luke 4:18‭-‬19 NLT

I watched a snippet of a sermon from a church in another town a couple of days ago.  My husband is considering a job change which could eventually cause us to move.  Even though church has been a source of great trauma for our family, we still very much want to be a part of a church. We believe that God created us for fellowship with one another. We agree with God that it is not good for us to be alone. But after listening to five minutes of the message from this church,  I turned it off. The pastor was doing what I have heard quite a few pastors do, and that’s criticize those who do not go to church. He actually called the person who had written an article about not going to church stupid.  I don’t know about you, but I do not believe criticizing someone who does not go to church, is an effective way to encourage people to attend church.  I believe the most effective way of getting people to come to church is providing an environment where they understand that Jesus meets them where they are.

I watched the video Hope Rising created by the  American Bible Society again last night. It addresses the issue of helping those who have suffered from trauma connect with God. The video points out that people who suffer from traumatic experiences struggle to connect with God until they have worked through their trauma. Traumatized people need to know first that God cares about their pain.

God does care about our pain. So much so that the Bible says He keeps our tears in a bottle. When I allow myself to think about this truth alone I am moved in the deepest part of my soul. The Bible also says God is near to the brokenhearted. A bruised reed He will not break. A smoking flax He will not put out. These truths are a healing balm to my hurting and traumatized soul.

I believe a lot of churches do a good job of teaching these truths to their members. The heart of the Gospel after all is Jesus loved us so much that He died to save us from the brokenness and sin in this world. However, for those of us who have been traumatized by religion attending church can be exceedingly difficult. And when pastors preach that those who do not go to church are stupid it definitely does not help!

I recognize that for those in ministry it is difficult to meet everyone just where they are, especially those who have been harmed by the church and find it difficult to attend.  How can a pastor help someone who struggles to come to the place where he has been called to teach? I think it is important to note that Jesus spent a lot of time talking about false teachers and the damage they cause. He warned that false teachers would continue to increase in the church.  The Apostle Paul also warned about the same thing.  So one way pastors can help those in their congregation who have suffered from abuse in a religious environment, is take the time to acknowledge that abuse does occur in the church and have a plan to deal with it when it does before it happens!  I am absolutely heartbroken over stories of abuse that I read about happening in the church today and the pastors who are covering it up or worse blaming the victim. This is an insidious thing. We in the church of Jesus Christ must acknowledge that abuse does occur in the church. We need to give those who have been abused in the church permission to talk about it and to grieve it.  We must bring it into the light where it can be talked about and heal. As long as we are more concerned about our reputation and not those who are hurting in our congregations, we will not be effective in carrying out the hope of the Gospel the way God has called us to.

Another thing that I believe that churches can do to help those who have suffered abuse in the church is remind them it is OK not to attend church. When someone you know has been abused by the church does not attend, let them know that you care, but also remind them it is OK to take time away, too. Send them a link for the sermon and ask them how you can pray for them.  Also, equip others in the church who are empathetic and willing to meet with those who are hurting one on one. In my own personal experience,  one on one is less intimidating than a group. We are all on different journeys and sometimes we can traumatize one another without meaning to.

The most important thing is be patient and don’t push. If a person who has been harmed by the church needs to sit on the back row every Sunday for five years or more, then let them.  Give them space, but also let them know you care by reaching out from time to time.  This will go a long way in helping with the healing process that will only come with time and gained trust.

I read a quote from Diane Langberg recently that trauma is the biggest mission field of the 21st century.   It is more important now more than ever that we in the church be equipped to serve in these areas. This includes ministering especially to those who have been harmed by religion.  I encourage you if you are in ministry, take the time to educate yourself about trauma and abuse in the church.  

Here are a couple of websites that are very helpful :

Global Trauma Recovery 

Trauma Healing Institution

Finding Hope in Grief 

The painful process of dealing with our losses can result in hope when it reveals to us a loving Father who grieves with us and promises restoration. 

Grief crowds the heart, eats up all your energy and chronically imposes upon your peace.  But grief isn’t some evil force that’s only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need. 
Katherine Schafler, The One Thing No One Ever Says About Grieving 

Recently,  I started to read the book Recovering from the Losses in Life by H. Norman Wright. It’s a book my counselor suggested I read over a year ago, but at the time I just wasn’t ready to process at the time. I could not see any benefit of feeling more pain. It seemed to take all I could do to function with what I was dealing with at the time. But lately,  I’ve been seeing the need of continuing to work through the losses in my life, not because I look forward to feeling the pain, but rather because I know pain is a necessary part of healing. 

I mentioned the show Rectify in my last blog. It’s a beautiful, redemptive show that I highly recommend.  The main character, Daniel, has recently been released from being on death row. Daniel suffers from PTSD after spending almost twenty years in a prison where horrible things happened to him. The adjustment to life outside the prison walls is overwhelming to him, but the memories of the pain he suffered behind the prison walls is by far his biggest obstacle. Daniel is out of prison, but inside his mind he is still locked up.  When someone recommends to him that he seek treatment for his PTSD, Daniel has the same reaction that I did to the thought of more pain; resistance.  

When pain is all one can feel, the last thing we want to do is add more pain.  

Eventually, Daniel realizes the only way to heal is to go back to it’s source and grieve what was lost. 

I initially started to grieve the losses in my childhood with my former pastor. I believed that opening up to him about my pain was what I needed to do to be able to move forward in my life.  I had no idea at the time how deep my pain really went, how crippling it would be to just remember some of the traumas that I had suppressed. I was not at all prepared.  Because my former pastor did not keep appropriate boundaries and what resulted was an abusive relationship and even more trauma, I am sure that you can understand when my counselor suggested facing my past again that it would be the last thing I’d want to do. 

I think the most difficult thing about grieving is how weak it makes me feel. Ever since being abused as a child, control is the only thing I could rely on to keep me safe. But as I’ve gotten older I’m beginning to understand that control has not really kept me safe, rather it has caused life to become an even more frightening place. 

Scripture says that God’s perfect love casts out all fear. That God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind.  The only thing that can truly make us feel safe is knowing that God loves us and wants what’s best for us.  Our own fear and control keep us from experiencing this, and therefore keep us feeling unsafe. 

The painful process of dealing with our losses can result in hope when it reveals to us a loving Father who grieves with us and promises restoration

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:13‭-‬14 ESV

As children of God, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Because of Jesus, we have hope. Because of His resurrection, we can be assured that one day we will not ever have to grieve again. He has conquered death, sin, and the grave. And this hope has been the only thing that has kept keep me moving forward at times.   

But not only is the hope we have in the afterlife, but grief offers us clarity into what it is we really desire and need in life. Katherine Schafler states, 

But grief isn’t some evil force that’s only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need. 

More than anything else, grief has shown me what I really need and want. Growing up in fear, taught me to live a life of control. I didn’t know that children needed fathers and mothers to keep them safe. I believed I could do it all on my own. But the pain of grief revealed to me what a tremendous loss this really was in my life. 

I was never meant to live life alone. I was created to be loved not abused. 

Ultimately, the pain of these losses has let me know that I am alive. It’s been the breath of God into a soul that thought that it was dead.

“But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!’ And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel. Your breasts became full, and your body hair grew, but you were still naked. And when I passed by again, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I wrapped my cloak around you to cover your nakedness and declared my marriage vows. I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign Lord , and you became mine.

Ezekiel 16:6‭-‬8 NLT

Jesus, the Man of sorrows acquainted with our griefs, has not abandoned us in our pain.  He grieves with us in all that we have lost. Grief reminds us that we were not created to live in the broken world, but that we were created to have wholeness and life through Him. 

Even though I’ve been able to find hope in my grief, I still have to move forward through the process of experiencing the pain that grief causes and also the fears that more loss will occur, and it is difficult. I recognize that my  default mode is to do everything I can to control. Letting go of this need is a day by day,  moment by moment process in which I need the Holy Spirit to help me through. I will try and fail, but sometimes I will try and succeed. Reinvesting into life, moving forward towards the things I know that I really want and need are risky from a human perspective. Sometimes I find myself hiding in my room wishing I didn’t ever have to make another choice again. So much in life causes me to fear losing something else. However, my own control numbs me to the place where I feel nothing and that’s an awful place to be, so I recognize I must make one small investment after another towards the life I know God wants me to live.  One more step towards relationships. One more step towards change. One more step towards love. One more step towards hope reminding myself that He is a good Father who always keeps His promises. 

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”

John 14:1 NLT

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3‭-‬5 NLT

*Photo Credit Rectify, Sundance Channel 

Dear Pain

I know if I do not deal with my pain when it comes that sooner or later my pain will deal with me.

Yesterday,  I was given an assignment by my counselor to write about the painful emotions that I felt as a child that crop up as an adult at adult at times when I do not want them to.

Most of us avoid pain any way that we can. Some of us numb it through drugs, alcohol or sex. Some us talk ourselves out of believing that it’s really that bad. Some of us never slow down enough to feel it.

I’ve tried in every way possible to avoid pain, and I still do not want to deal with it now. I’d much rather binge watch Netflix with a large bowl of popcorn, however I know if I do not deal with my pain when it comes that sooner or later my pain will deal with me.I have learned from a lifetime of stuffing pain that the day always comes when I cannot do it anymore. 

Ten years ago, I had been strong for so long, pretending I had it together, that God was taking me to a happier place away from all of my childhood memories. That He had given me a new victorious Christian life. But I discovered I was wrong. I could not control my pain anymore. It controlled me. 

I started watching the show Rectify last night on Netflix.  It’s the story of a man, Daniel Holden,  who was on death row for 20 years. He is released on a technicality and to be retried for the murder. But while he is awaiting retrial,  he goes home. In one scene, the main character hugs his sister in law for a brief time. Daniel  becomes overwhelmed with emotion at the loving touch of another human being. He doesn’t want to let go. The desperation from not receiving touch for so many years is clear. He clings to her for dear life unleashing the powerful force of grief he felt from being untouched for so long.

My emotions were locked away for most of my life. I desperately longed to be heard as a little girl, but it was clear that my parents were not equipped to deal with my pain. I’ll never forget the night my parents were upset with me when they caught me talking to an ex boyfriend who they did not like. They jumped the gun believing that we were getting back together. My mom left the house devastated, leaving me alone with my adopted father. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to explain that I was just trying to keep a peaceful relationship with this boy, my adopted father would hear none of it.  He got angrier and angrier at me and my ex boyfriend. He eventually got a handgun out and put it down on the coffee table. He screamed that he would kill him if he came to our house.  I was so upset that I began screaming I wished I could die. My adopted father said he didn’t care and continued to rant about how he’d kill my ex boyfriend if he came.  It was clear that I was not being heard and that telling him my pain would only continue to escalate the situation. I called my cousin and asked her to come pick me up.  When she arrived at my house I stood out in the yard screaming into the darkness, but I knew if my adopted father heard that he did not care.

Even after I got married and had my first child, my adopted father was still letting me know that my pain was not safe with him. A week after having my first child, I was in the hospital with an infection.  He came to visit and I was crying. He actually got angry with me. He declared that I’d better hold it together or they might send a psychiatrist in for me.  He then said I should be grateful, because my mom was stuck at my house with my baby.  I was crushed. Not only had he made me afraid to cry but also guilted about my mother babysitting while I was in the hospital. When I look back on these times, it’s clear why I learned to bottle my emotions up.  It was the only thing that kept me safe. And it became a pattern of life into my adult years.   

But then I met a pastor who was a father figure to me.  He encouraged me to open up to him about my feelings and he responded with concern. When he hugged me for the first time I was like the character in Rectify and clung to him like a person who had been locked away for decades without love. His hug gave me life like I’d never experienced before.  But if you’ve read my story, you know it didn’t take long before the lack of boundaries turned my relationship with him into an abusive one that lasted 10 years. 

It’s clear looking back today on my life that my pain and finding a safe way to express it is crucial to my life.  The older I get the more I realize that I’m less able to stuff it anymore. It is more likely to come flooding out at time when I don’t want it to, and if I overreact around others I’m left feeling ashamed and responsible once again for not being in control of my emotions. 

My counselor told me yesterday that responsibility is the ability to respond. But when we feel ashamed we feel stuck and unable to respond well.  I realize for a large part of my life I’ve been ashamed of my emotions because of the way my parents reacted to them.  I learned at an early age that allowing myself to feel what I was created to feel produced negative results. Therefore, I learned to stuff emotions that would not be acceptable. I learned to behave in ways that kept others happy with me even if those ways were not a true reflection of how I felt. Therefore, I also took responsibility for their bad behavior, too! 

I’m still on a long journey of allowing myself to feel the emotions God intended for me to feel. Pain lets us know when something is wrong. Pain also motivates us to ask for help from God and others. I realize my relationship with God is also lacking because even with Him I try to express what I think He wants me to feel rather than what I really do, but God knows my heart. He looks past all of my trying to hold it all together and His Holy Spirit prays for me even when I don’t know how to pray for myself.  The thing that amazed me the most about God when I first felt His presence was that He heard my pain and He comforted me.  He was a safe place to release my pain, however my efforts to try to be a good religious person caused me to lose sight of that.  Also, painful circumstances in my life knocked me back into a self protective mode of trying to control things around me by not expressing what I really felt honestly to others. And it made me an easy target for a predator. 

Certainly, after all the painful circumstances our family has been through, my tendency is definitely to hold my feelings in and protect myself and others from them.  I saw how my desperate need for love took me to a very dark place. But I’m realizing these days that it wasn’t my feelings that were ever the problem. It was not being able to deal with my feelings in a healthy way that was. Of course as a child, I didn’t know another way to deal with my emotions. I could not help the situation I was born into. None of that was my fault.  As an adult who had not learned a better way to cope, there were also certain elements outside of my control. I have learned like many of us do through brokenness that my way does not work anymore and I need to try another way. I realize my fighting to escape my childhood emotions are not working anymore and it is time to give them space in my life to be expressed in a healthy way. 

I think the reason I have been so afraid of these emotions is that I think they will cripple me again. I fear that I won’t be able to function like I did when I first started to open up to my former pastor about them. But I’m beginning to see finally that these emotions can come out in healthy ways if I will allow myself to be honest about them with God and others who are safe to share them with.  

When we are able to be vulnerable with God and with others, we find that our powerful painful emotions begin to lose their power in our lives.  The shameful lies that we believe about how we should feel begin to die in the light with friends who understand and we learn to respond better. The shame we feel about our emotions  are transformed into truth when can share them honestly with those who know how to listen. My heart breaks to hear that so many leave the church because no one understood their pain, and tried to fix them without even listening.   When we do not know how to deal with our own pain, we can’t help others deal with theirs either. 

I’m learning slowly to share bits of my story with friends who are not afraid to share their story with me.  I cannot express enough how this has changed so much for the good for me. I no longer feel desperate like I did when I went to my pastor for help. I no longer feel so very alone. When others listen compassionately, it also helps to give me a glimpse of the compassion of God, and enables me to be honest with Him. 

Even with all in learning about my pain, there is still a lot that is there that I haven’t been able to release. There are still memories stuck in my subconscious mind that I am afraid of how they will make me feel.  So today I’m writing a letter to my pain (an assignment from my counselor), to give it permission to come out when it needs to, so that it won’t come out when it has to.  More than anything else I want to stop feeling crippled by overwhelming emotions that keep me stuck.

If you can relate to some of what I’m writing here, maybe you can consider writing one of these letters, too or reaching out to a safe friend who will really listen.

Pain isn’t meant to be stuffed. It’s meant to be felt and motivate us to pay attention and get the help we need.

Dear Pain, 

I know that you are there, because you come out at night when I’m trying to sleep and cause my mind to listen when things are finally quiet. I’m sorry that it takes this for me to actually listen. 

I know I avoid you when I’m craving another donut or yearning to numb out in front of the TV. I don’t know why it’s just so hard to feel what it is that you want me to. 

I am beginning to see lately that you really are not a bad thing. You help me see what I need. You help me understand the things that continue to hurt me. 

You shouted no when my adopted father touched me and let others bring me harm. You knew I was just a little girl and that this was not supposed to be happening. You were not something to be ashamed of when I felt really bad. What happened was a terrible thing and dear Pain you let me know that it was. 

I know I have allowed control to push you over and over back inside. It’s been bullying you around for too long. Control really is the adversary that I need to let go of because it’s what’s brought me harm. You have been the one who has consistently said that the harm happening in my life was wrong.  So I thank you for that. 

I also know I try to minimize what you make me feel as well. I tell myself that whatever it is it’s really not that bad, but you want me to see the reality of all that is going on before it gets any worse. Oh how I wish I’d listened to you when you tried to tell me things were really bad. 

I think I’m figuring out you are more of a friend than a foe.  I don’t like the way you make me feel but I know you are necessary for me to be healthy and whole. I invite you to continue to guide and direct me in the ways I need to go. And I will try to do a better job of cooperating with you. 

Liz

Finding Life in the Losses

Sometimes when it looks like all is blackened and burned, new life is about to begin.

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I keep trying to get back what’s been lost.

Another job like the one I loved that’s gone.

Another home like our dream place that was ruined by abuse.

Other friends like the ones who made my life more complete.

But it’s been like chasing after the wind.

I will never catch it.

Sometimes I fear if I stop chasing after all that I’ve lost that life will simply cease to exist.

That I’ll be giving up.

That evil will have won.

Sometimes when I gaze out the window impatient and frustrated over how things have worked out, and the pain of loss seeps in, I forget what Jesus said to those who follow Him and experience loss in this world.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:39 ESV

Reading Jesus’s words frustrate and give me hope.

Life continually teaches me that chasing after the wind and not catching it is actually a good thing.

But it also means that I have to wait on God, and I hate waiting!

But when I don’t chase the wind, and wait on Him, His wind actually finds me.

Once I believed I’d caught the wind, that what I’d longed for my whole life was finally in my hands.

But the wind became a whirlwind and wreaked havoc in my life.

I’ve struggled to understand since that time why Jesus allowed us to lose so much.

What good could possibly come from everything we’ve worked so hard for being gone?

Why must we lose to gain?

There was a lot that Jesus said that didn’t make sense.

Thus the reason so many who initially followed Him turned away.

The multitude following Jesus completely missed the point of Him breaking the bread.

They thought it was to keep them full and comfortable.

They thought it was about life in this world.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

John 6:25‭-‬27 ESV

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

John 6:66‭-‬67 ESV

The broken world cries out, Find your hope in me.

A beautiful house similar to the one we lost pulls at my deepest longings.  If we buy it maybe we can get back some of what we lost.  But the disappointment that comes when we discover it needs more work than we can afford brings great sadness.

Why, God, why?  I thought you restored the years that the locust have eaten?

I am answered with only silence.

In my discontentment, I pick up a new book to read.

Death and resurrection. The paradox of it breaks into me afresh: unless we die, unless we surrender, unless we sacrifice, we remain alone. Lonely. But if we die, if we surrender, if we sacrifice, that is when we experience the abundance, that is when we dance in communion. The life that yields the most—yields the most.

The fields to the south sing in the surrender of it: “But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”   (Augustine, Confessions) 

 I’ve got to let it go. This bread, those crops, these people, everything. 

And the Farmer hands me the basket of bread. What do you do if you feel too wounded, too devastated to receive? Sometimes desperation drives you through devastation. I break off my piece of the loaf. This is My body—and the crushed kernels dissolve into me, become me. 

The wheat seed grew into a wheat stalk that ripened and was broken and came to my brokenness. If you didn’t know how bread is made, you might think it looks like complete destruction.  

Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

 I’ve got to let it go. This bread, those crops, these people, everything. 

But can I let go and trust Him or do I want to go away and chase my dreams?

Sometimes I still wrestle with these questions, but in my heart I know the answer.

Jesus is the only One Who has the words of life.

We just have to wait for it to come.

The other day riding to school my children saw a single yard that was burned and blackened by it’s owners. The other yards around it were starting to turn green.  My son asked the question why did they burn their yard? All he could see were the charred remains of dead grass.  My husband told him it was so the grass would come back healthier.  And sure enough on our commute to school over the next several days the yard began to green. And finally when the process was complete the yard was greener than any of the neighboring yards. And seeing the transformation reminded me that our lives are much the same. Sometimes when it looks like all is blackened and burned, new life is about to begin.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…”
Revelation 21:5 ESV

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 12:24 ESV

photo credit Agatha Brown Morguefile