As God has graciously led me to turn and face some bad patterns in my life—habits related to relationships, spiritual disciplines (the most important relationship), life and work duties, health choices—many Scriptures, teachings, and quotes keep coming to my mind at apt moments:
- If you starve your cravings, they will lessen.
- Sin separates, the Cross unites.
- That which is done in secret, with guilt, is never loving of God or neighbor.
- Wisdom is learning to love what is good for you.
- Real life is life that is Coram Deo.
But the one phrase that is currently helping me the most is this:
How do you handle pain, Tara?
You see, I have real pain in my life. (Just as I know you have real pain in your life.) Some of mine is chronic, debilitating physical pain related to birth defects and abnormalities I have in certain joints. Other physical pain is related to my unwise choices over the last eight years.
Some of my emotional pain is related to challenging aspects of my childhood that even now (at age 42) still shock me at times as they jump to my consciousness and God apparently thinks I am ready to face, acknowledge, grieve, and let go. Other emotional pain is more fresh. More raw. Related to current hurts in marriage, parenting, friendships … life.
At times, I have waves of existential pain. I step back and consider what really matters in life and my chest rightfully tightens at the utter hopelessness around me. Darkness and despair. Futility. Without the hope of eternity to come? How do you get out of bed in the morning and head off to your powerful, wealth-creating, “perfect” job (that still never fully satisfies)? Or change your thousandth diaper, enjoying and pouring yourself out for a satisfying and happy domestic career (without making a self-centered idol out of your family and home)? How do we not covet? Value the things of eternal importance? Live for Heaven to come rather than the temporal pleasures of this life?
You see, of all of my temptations in life, my biggest temptation is my acute instinct to avoid pain. Escape. Run away. Deny. Hide.
Rather than actually feeling my feelings and facing my pain; rather than doing the hard work of getting down the bottom of my swirling emotions and thinking … I just hide. I hid as a child—physically, under beds and in closets. I didn’t have the resources I needed to change my situation. I didn’t even know that my situation wasn’t normal.
But I am not a child any more. And I have everything I need for life and godliness—and the ability to face pain. God’s Spirit. His Word. His Body. Fed by the preaching of the Word and the Lord’s Supper. Uplifted in prayer. Uplifting others in prayer. Getting help as needed. Trusting that (to quote one of Samara’s favorite phrases and yet another thing I hear rattling around in my heart and mind every day):
This too shall pass.
Maybe not until eternity. Maybe later on today. But pain is not permanent. And sinning in response to pain is never appropriate or helpful (since it just adds to our pain).
Praying for tangible grace for you all (and myself too) as we face our pain today!
Your sister in Christ,