Pain Must Have Its Place – Psalm 119
I am a sucker for all things spiritual. I love daily Scripture apps on my smart phone, emails from spiritual mentors, and all things faith-related. I am always curious to hear about others’ faith and what makes them keep going each day. Most specifically, why do people choose to follow a God that they cannot see or touch or feel? How do we seek our God during this life on Earth?
One of the email publications that I currently receive is written by a theologian and author who is working his way through a number of themes. I joined this email list a bit late in the game, specifically on the sixth theme. The theme being: “The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.”
So being the eternal optimist that I am, one can only imagine when I opened my first email from this theologian and author, my immediate response was, of course, panic and disregard. Why would I want to read about pain? I want something lighthearted and encouraging! My life is so busy and chaotic – I need some truth. Some upbeat, positive truth. So upon reading the theme’s description, I closed the email quickly. But I did not delete it.
Day by day the number of emails from this specific publication increased in number. Daily, usually in the morning hours, I would glance at the pile as it grew, but I continued to deny the act of reading these words, for fear of what it could or would possibly bring about in me.
Finally, one day at work during a short, five minute break, I decided to open one of the emails and take a gander. It was entitled “Pain As a Way of Knowing.” I was so very confused and afflicted by the title itself, let alone the contents of the email. I went on to read that…
“Suffering is the necessary deep feeling of the situation. If we don’t feel pain, suffering, human failure and weakness, we stand antiseptically apart from it, and remain numb and small.” Also, “Jesus did not numb himself or withhold himself from human pain, as we see even in his refusal of the numbing wine on the cross.” (Matthew 27:34)
Wow, wow, wow. Pain as a way of knowing, huh? I thought to myself, I have suffered enough… and it sure does not feel necessary or fruitful. Though I did slightly recall the ways that pain has often brought about joy in my life. But, I did not want to acknowledge this reality. Because of course, pain hurts, and if we can avoid it, why not?
The most ache and sorrow my heart has felt resulted from losing my mom to a nasty, ugly struggle with cancer. She has now been gone for six years, but sometimes it only seems as if months ago she breathed her last breath. Watching her life deteriorate was one of the hardest things I think I have ever, and will ever have to endure in my life.
“ I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.” (Psalm 119:28 NIV)
I succumbed to my optimistic ways the first several years following her death, and completely avoided the pain of losing one of my closest family members, my mother. I went on with coffee dates and long work hours and being a youth group leader as if I was just like everyone else, and as if nothing significantly devastating had just occurred in my life. You see, I did not tell myself that I should avoid the pain; it was my innate self, propelling me toward the avoidance of pain. I just did not want it to be real. I did not want to feel any pain. So I avoided it at ALL costs. I said no to the pain, and went on with life. Now while I do believe it is healthy, and often times necessary, to cope with pain in the way(s) that work for you individually, I took it past that and further into the “sweet land of avoiding all things negative,” as I like to call it.
Then there came a day when anxiety attacked me like a voracious, ugly, wolf with red beady eyes. It overwhelmed me, even to the point of panic. I was so angry at this annoying pain and anxiety – I had no idea which way was up or down – I was paralyzed by this mysterious, undefined ache.
“I lie in the dust, revive me by your word.” (Psalm 119:25)
I started seeing a counselor on a weekly basis, and after about nine months or so, I came to the conclusion that I had avoided “feeling” the death of mother. I did not feel the deep pain of losing her. Therefore, I also avoided knowing a side of God by avoiding this pain. I had denied him the chance to comfort me in my loss. I had rejected his calming words in the midst of my storm.
“Renew my life with your goodness…I will walk in freedom.” (from Psalm 119:40, 45)
Pain must have its place. It must be faced. Without pain there can be no comfort, and without pain we often neglect to look to our Comforter. He is the one who felt all the world’s pain and sorrow on the cross—the searing pain of separation from the Father. He refused to numb those horrific moments—he felt his pain fully in order to ultimately end ours.
The ultimate end of pain has not yet come, but the promise of it is here, written in Jesus’ blood. While we wait for the promise’s fulfillment, may our pain be a reminder to look to our redeemer, trusting that his comfort is total and final. Believing that our pain is absorbed and defined by His.
Jettie was born and raised in the booming metropolis of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has had a consistent passion for serving teenagers and has served in the high school ministry at her church for the last 12 years. Last year, she completed her masters in psychology at Western Michigan University; she is currently employed as a foster care case manager at Bethany Christian Services, enjoying it more than she ever had imagined. In her free time, Jettie loves reading, writing, dancing, laughing, traveling, and enjoying a good meal with loved ones. A great deal of her time is spent with her fiancé David, who also has the cutest dog in the entire world, named Sadie. The three of them enjoy hiking together throughout the streets and woods of Holland, Michigan. A consistent theme in Jettie’s life has been a passion for words and communication, and it is a complete joy and honor to share some thoughts on Pick Your Portion.