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Michelle Warner

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Sitting In Our Pain

Posted on January 25th, 2011

Monday Morsel

sometimes random.
sometimes deep.
just a little something
to begin your week.
**

I feel like I’m in a good place in life right now. I’m feeling connected to the Lord, my husband, and my heart. Yet I still spent much of the day several days ago in tears.

The reason for my tears is that I am struggling with waiting a year and a half (according to my oncologist’s recommendations) to start our family. I am incredibly grateful for the good health that I am experiencing, and a day does not go by that I am not reminded of how God has met me through my health crisis. But in all honesty, as I’ve recovered and seen God bring my body back into working order, it’s been a challenge for me to have to wait to begin our family. I’m in a season of life right now where most of our friends have started their families and it’s painful to not share with them in this time together.

All that being said, I am loving the ministry opportunities God has given me and thoroughly enjoying the women He has placed in my life. I also adore living life with my husband and this special time to grow in our marriage. And as I learned while waiting to be married, I know I need to seize the moments of this season because there is so much about it to cherish, even if it doesn’t align perfectly with my desires.

This season is teaching me an important truth: just because I may be where God wants me to be (and feel sincere and extreme gratitude for the state of my health), it doesn’t mean I won’t feel aches and longings. In fact, it may mean that I need these feelings of discomfort to drive me closer to God.

Jared and I have been sharing much conversation recently around the topic of “sitting in our pain”—intentionally taking the time to feel where we are in life, and seeking God in the midst of the challenges. We’ve begun to see that even in the midst of so many blessings, life can still leave us aching. Aching for community. Aching to be a parent. Aching for others’ difficult seasons. To cope with these aches, we have several options: medicate ourselves to not feel the pain, isolate ourselves to not show our weakness, or allow the pain to draw us closer in our relationship with God and others.

1)      Medicate ourselves

I’ve read books and heard sermons about this subject of distracting ourselves to avoid feeling pain. Typically drinking and pornography are used as examples of ways we try to medicate our discomfort. Only recently have I begun to understand that just because I may not struggle with these notorious manners of escape, it does not mean that I don’t medicate myself just as much.

Take shopping for example. I love to shop, and provided I don’t buy what I don’t need and I stay within my budget, it seems fairly harmless. However, as I’ve been more in tune with my heart, there are times I’ve been walking around Target and the thought has crossed my mind, Why am I here? Am I trying to distract myself with scoring some cute shoes? As I’ve been pressing into this subject and pondering how I medicate myself from my pain, I’ve realized a couple other places I go: a filled-up schedule so I don’t have time to reflect on my situation, and the internet (blogs and Facebook) so I can wrap myself up in someone else’s story to not have to face my own. The list looks different for each of us and could include distractions like TV shows, work, chocolate, or exercise but the common denominator is the same: we are using these distractions to medicate ourselves from our pain.

Studying Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible Study the past few months has opened my eyes to the subtle ways I have lived in captivity. Beth explains that, “A Christian is held captive by anything that hinders the abundant and effective Spirit-filled life God planned for her.” She also writes in Get Out of That Pit, “Anything that becomes a bigger preoccupation in your mind than the truth and knowledge of God, anything that dwarfs His truth and knowledge in your imagination, is a stronghold” (45). Although I don’t like how it sounds, I need to address that many of these subtle “medications” or addictions can keep me from experiencing freedom and growing closer in my relationship with God.

2)      Isolate ourselves

Let’s admit it: we can feel so vulnerable when we ask for help. And spoken from experience, I don’t enjoy feeling vulnerable. So what am I tempted to do instead of asking for help? I choose to cope with my difficulties by staying inside my own head with my fears, temptations, and troubles rather than share them with others.

The reason it can be so tempting to shut people out of the messy parts of life is because we don’t know how others will respond to our stuff. Will they feel sorry for me? Judge me? Try to fix me? Avoid me? So instead of risking our image by engaging with them about our stuff, we stay locked up inside and try to medicate ourselves or work through our stuff on our own.

I’m continuing to learn as Rick Warren writes in The Purpose Driven Life, “Life is meant to be shared. God intends for us to experience life together.” He further explains, “In real fellowship people experience authenticity. Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface-level chit-chat. It is genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level sharing. It happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives. They share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer…Of course, being authentic requires both courage and humility. It means facing our fear of exposure, rejection, and being hurt” (139). Warren ends the chapter saying, “you were created for community” (143).

Community makes the highs and lows of life less bitter. However, we must take the plunge and open up to others about our pain in order to experience the comfort for which we long. I’m a firm believer that sharing my pain with others is worth the risk, and it’s amazing to me how God has profoundly encouraged me through the sharing as a result.

3)      Draw close to God

Jared and I have been trying to healthily cope with our aches by allowing them to act as catalysts that draw us closer to God. The way this has looked for us has been making it a priority to spend intentional time with Him. It can be tempting for me to rely on others to make me feel better about my situation, and I am learning as I sit in my pain to listen to what God wants to say to me first.

To Jared and me, sitting in our pain also means being authentic with God, inviting Him into our pain to give us a fresh understanding of who He is. Trust me: this process does not always look pretty. There have been days as I’ve sat in my pain that I have thrown rather embarrassing temper tantrums. How gracious and tender the Lord is that even in those moments when I am pleading for Him to change my circumstances that instead He gives me truth to hold onto.

During my tearful day a few days ago, I was listening to Chris Tomlin’s new album while running errands. God used the lyrics below to remind me that He saw me in the midst of my pain and was right there with me:

Faithful

Faithful, forever You are faithful
Father to the fatherless
You uphold the one who feels forsaken
You are faithful, God

Faithful, forever You are faithful
Lover of the wounded heart
You defend the poor and the forgotten
You are faithful, God

And I will sing to the maker of Heaven and Earth
God, You reign forever and Your love will endure
Faithful and true is the name of the Lord
You are faithful, God

Faithful, forever You are faithful
Shelter for the fragile soul
You lift us up, You hold us all together
You are faithful, God

You are there in every season of my soul
You are there, You’re the anchor that will hold
You are there, in the valley of the shadows
You are faithful, God

If you’re in a similar challenging season, I encourage you, as uncomfortable as it may feel, to sit in your pain and allow it to bring you to a deeper place in your relationship with God. Because really, that’s what life is all about.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.”
Psalm 62:5-8

“Be at rest once more, O my soul,
For the Lord has been good to you.”
Psalm 116:7

2 Comments on “Sitting In Our Pain”

  • Angie says:

    How I love you and am praying for you and Jared. Thanks for letting me glimpse into your season. You are a Braveheart, indeed.

  • Katie says:

    Michelle,
    I so appreciate your vulnerability in sharing what you did in this post. I continue to be amazed and encouraged by your faithful response to a challenging season. I love the lyrics and the verses u shared and I know that people will be blessed by your willingness to share your heart.
    Love,
    Katie

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