Pain, an Invitation to Hope

I’m compelled by the beauty of those who have walked down broken pathways but still lift their eyes to a horizon of hope before them. I’m compelled by the people that have shaped their scars into stories that tell of a merciful, loving, compassionate God in the midst of a weary and broken world. Their light humbles me, because it shines the light of a love that’s far greater than anything life could hand us. It’s something grown, something tended, and something far greater than anything we stumble upon. Yes, it’s far more than that, it’s something formed.

Pain changes things. Even more, pain changes how we see things. Pain, I’m learning, can be the greatest invitation to hope that we’ve ever received. Pain is loud and its presence cannot be overlooked, but it’s amazing the way it responds to hope. Pain doesn’t scream and shout in the midst of hope, it speaks kindly of a healing and redemption and love. Pain heals when it meets hope. Pain isn’t the completion of things, pain isn’t the end of the story. I see it in the light of those who walk through dark valleys but know they’re only passing through. I see it in the light of those who are not afraid when the winds and waves rush through their lives, for they know that love can never be shaken or taken or diluted. I see it in the people who use their scars as invitations to others with fresh wounds, letting them know that healing exists even in the midst of brokenness and pain. Pain, I’ve found, isn’t always lifted this side of heaven. But pain is never useless. It’s not the pain itself so much as the way it’s shaped our stories. It’s not the pain we feel so much as the lessons and the growth and the healing that it opens us up into. Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that some of the greatest fruits –compassion, and forgiveness, and love, and hope—are the things that are not found, but grown. They’re rare because of the process we must grow them through. I’ve found that heartache and loss and sickness and grief don’t stop there, they grow to become empathy, and compassion, and love, and gentleness, and patience, and understanding, and generosity, and selflessness, if only we let them. And when you stumble upon a person who lets them, my goodness, they will take your breath away. You will be knocked off of your feet in the midst of their beauty, because they are shining the beauty of our Lord.

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Week Two: Your Pain is Significant

As we wake in the morning, open our eyes to the sunshine peaking through the cracks of the blinds, and are embraced by a fresh new day, it doesn’t take long for pain to slip in. You may awaken beaming with hope and feel your soul dancing with joy, but somehow, pain still creeps into the shadows. There are so very many ways it can. Maybe it’s aches all over your body, crashing as strongly today as they did the day before. Or maybe it’s the tender wounds that a broken relationship inflicted on your heart. Perhaps it’s the loneliness in the midst of a loss you haven’t been able to fill. If none of these things, perhaps what you feel is the exhaustion of being downtrodden by emotions that you’ve battled day in and day out–feeling oppressed by their weight and conquered by their power. No matter what you feel or how deeply it’s affected your heart, these pains are so very real, and they matter. These pains may have stolen your gaze and slipped lies into your heart. They may have taken the serenity of the morning and twisted it into the sorrow of mourning. There is such a vast sea of sorrow, and yet, every drop of it matters.

These words may look like a small statement to offer such a big wound; somewhat like a band-aid offered to a life-threatening wound. But please don’t let the simplicity of this statement fool you; these words have a great power to them. Neatly packed within that statement are two beautiful, strong, soothing, and inspiring truths. Will you take a closer look with me as we unpack them, one by one?

The first garment of truth is comforting and cozy and just what it sounds like: your pain is noticed; your pain matters. You may have grown used to your pain. You may have accepted it as a companion, even though you’ve longed to be freed from it. But there is still hope, and there is still peace, and there is still freedom for each and every one of your wounds. Your pain matters. If you’ve felt it for an hour or you’ve felt it for many years, it’s still a terrible pain that you do not have to simply adjust to and overlook. It matters. You don’t have to hide it or push through it. You can show your heart, your wounds, your tears, and your desire for restoration. You do not have to be ashamed; not ashamed in front of God or in front of me, because we both understand what pain feels like.

In Psalm 56, as David cries out to God, he shares a verse that roots the truth that our pain is significant. He says:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

God pays special attention to us. He sees your tears, your sorrows, your pain, your worries, your doubts, and all those broken pieces you’re trying to put back together. He doesn’t simply see them, but comes along side you and offers His comfort, understanding, and redemption. This means that He knows not only the wounds, but how to heal them, and how to protect you from worsening them. As we open our precious Bibles, we are introduced to a God who was involved with and empathetic toward His children in every pain and sorrow. He’s a rescuer and a comforter. Please allow Him to come along side you, to cleanse your wounds and tenderly wipe the tears away from your eyes. Allow Him to tell you that He has a plan and a purpose for you, and you don’t have to hopelessly endure pain. He is with you. Allow Him to talk to you about your pain and to bring you His rest. He longs to be near you and share this burden with you. He doesn’t want you to try to bear this on your own; He longs to be your faithful companion.

The second garment of truth is bold and graceful and has deep meaning. This truth is that your pain has purpose. Pain itself is a terrible, awful, and entirely dreadful thing, but we learn a great deal from it. It isn’t the pain itself that is so significant as what it teaches us and how we let it form us. It’s not the fact that we need pain, but that we need the lessons that pain sobers us to. Pain reveals a divine hope that is independent of earthly comfort. When we let go of earthly safety nets, here are a few of the lessons and virtues we learn and grow in: gratitude, mercy, empathy, true friendship and companionship, patience, endurance, healing, hope, redemption, compassion, appreciation, depth, deliverance, purpose, joy, faith.

If you’re stuck in the midst of sorrow, wondering how pain and heartache can shape your heart and soul into something more beautiful than it was before this grief every touched you, let me remind you of how sweet little snowflakes are formed. As the rain falls down from the sky–that gloomy, formless rain slipping from grey clouds–the bitter air touches it. The bitterness stills each and every motion of that falling drop of water. The drop stretches and falls and the bitterness freezes its every motion into a masterpiece. And that’s certainly what a snowflake is, a piece of irreplaceable art that is tiny in size yet immense in God’s craftsmanship. And these lovely snowflakes are never the same, but always unique. The form, the artistry, the beauty, and the unique design of every little snowflake is a direct result of the bitterness it came through to fall upon your shoulder, stick to your coat, and bring a smile to your face.

So take heart, and be courageous, because God even redeems the rain. And as the sweet, beautiful snow reflects the sunlight, so His love shines upon us.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)