Pain. Intense pain. Overwhelming the senses, overpowering the heart, pervading every part of life. Not the pain that causes the outward body to ache, but the pain that pierces the heart and leaves it bleeding profusely for hours. And just as the spiritual platelets have begun to do their job and return the heart to a calmer level of feeling, the cycle starts all over again and rips open the freshly sealed wound over and over.
There are two kinds of pain. There is the pain that occurs in our own lives and then there is the pain that occurs when we have to watch those we love suffer. The first can be excruciating: rejection, loss, abandonment, abuse. But the second can be the torment of hell itself. There is nothing worse than watching the ones you love suffer and feeling helpless to do a thing about it. Or is there something worse?
I have felt my share of pain. If outward circumstances were the gage then I have felt very little in comparison to much of the world, but my latest theory is that pain is relative to the degree your heart is open to feel it. In other words, there are those who should be feeling excruciating pain but they are numb. They choose not to feel. The only thing worse than experiencing the pain itself is not experiencing it.
The place of pain is the safest place to be. Why? Because it is proof of life. As long as we are feeling, as long as we are caring then we are still alive. Our hearts are still beating. There is still hope. The pain is also the warning sign that something is wrong, that something must be fixed. It can lead us to healing. It can keep us fighting, for ourselves or for those we love. The greatest danger to those who have lost feeling in parts of their physical bodies is that they can burn or cut themselves without even realizing it. Why should it be any different spiritually? When we cease to feel we risk incurring more and more pain upon our hearts, a life-threatening possibility. And when we cease to feel we stop fighting for those we love and begin to watch at an apathetic distance.
So what do we do with pain? We sit in it. That is what I am learning. We sit in it and don’t run away. We look it straight in the face and let it do a number on our heart… and we let God meet us in the midst of it. Pain places us closer to the heart of God, if we will let it. It can give us a glimpse into what He is feeling. Have you ever stopped to ponder that struggling with loneliness and feeling a discontent for the depth of relationships in life must be a taste of the ache God feels when he longs to commune with us and we don’t have the capacity to join Him like He would desire? Have you ever stopped to consider that when your heart is screaming at the injustice of a situation, God’s heart must be screaming an infinite number of times louder? And when our hearts are breaking as we watch pain, we are sensing a touch of the degree that God’s heart is breaking too. We have to stay there. We have to keep letting our hearts feel, even though it seems it will be the end of us.
Pain is overwhelming. Pain is ugly. But pain can also be beautiful. It is another oxymoron of the kingdom. We won’t understand it until we trust God enough to take Him at His word and to sit in the middle of it. I’m trying. Often awkwardly and a bit unsuccessfully, but I’m trying. I’m getting overwhelmed and exhausted. I haven’t perfected the art of feeling the pain and balancing it with the hope that God brings in the middle of it. So I’m making a mess some days, but I’m living and feeling and trying. The day that my heart ceases to be messy this side of heaven is the day that my heart goes completely numb.
Life is messy, but messiness is living and moving and throbbing. Houses that are lived in get messy. Hearts that are lived in get messy too. There is nothing condemning about messiness. There is nothing wrong about pain. It is part of life. It is part of the kingdom. I know… easier said than done… but I know. I’m feeling it too. So throw caution to the wind and jump in the mess. Take time to scream and cry and pray. You just might find a treasure of beauty in the midst of the pain.