The Pain Matters
2 min read
"When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another, and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men. It is men, not God..." ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain p. 86
Does it? If someone, anyone, would have said this to me before age fifty, I would not have believed them. It not only would have felt or seemed untrue, but I would also have shouted “B— S—” at the top of my lungs. Oh wait, I did, on several occasions!
Think about it. Close your eyes. Picture the look on the faces of your fellow congregates and parishioners. What do you see? Do you see joy? Abundant life? Even happiness?
Sometimes. I sometimes do. Even then, I wonder if what I am seeing is authentic and which person’s happiness on the outside is a mask hiding the pain the matters. On the other hand, I get the mask. I’ve worn it.
Bridging life and faith can be confusing, difficult, painful, impossible, even hopeless. Living in the Joy seems so out of reach most of the time. We get tired of ‘faking it till we make it.’ It wasn’t until I learned about how trauma and adverse childhood experiences impact our brain function that I realized, ‘I’m not crazy, just wounded.’ To address this, I reluctantly pursued a relatively new therapy called EMDR—Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I will get more into how this works in another post, but I’m here to say that I wasn’t a believer at first. I thought it was hokey, smh hokey.
That was until I started feeling different, better, even experiencing hints of happiness with trickles of sunbeams trying to peer through the forest moments of joy. This therapy allowed me to process traumatic and adverse experiences that my brain wasn’t able to process let alone break my irrational thoughts and feelings.
I was able to go through each instance in my life that had impacted negative beliefs about my core value and created identity, an identity that the enemy had slowly chipped away at, while in turn, accusing me of the mess he and life had put me in. It’s where he gets his joy and jollies. He was laughing at me at every step of my life.
I was able to see this as I addressed each event, including my traumatic birth, and invite God into the pain these events and circumstances impacted. The impact was far reaching. They had influenced not only my view of self but also of God and others, negatively impacting every relationship. It felt safer not to have friends. Instead, I cemented my feet into a sea of loneliness and disconnection, isolation I was happy to leave behind.
However, not everyone needs EMDR. However, if God says that his sheep hear his voice, then there must be a way, an experiential way, to connect to God. We can still take our ‘stuff’ and pain to God. He will heal us. He will teach us to hear that still small voice. We have to learn to discern the voices in our heads. And yes, we all notice them lingering in the background. We need to know the voice of God so we can recognize the counterfeit voice in his attempts to destroy us.
The connection with God I now had only happened because when I invited him into those places, it was there that I was able to feel and see his love and experience the emotional and psychological healing that I so desperately needed. It was a painful process. But, to God, the pain mattered.
When Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17 ESV), he meant it. With each step in my healing, I felt and was finally able to receive his love.
It is imperative that our churches begin to feel comfortable with other people’s pain. I won’t get into here why I believe this truth is so prevalent in the body of Christ. I only know that it has to change. We have to teach people how to invite God into their pain. Teaching others this necessary spiritual intimacy takes time, years. Often 3-5 years is a minimum. Have you ever had someone in your life say, “Hey, I’m willing to spend the next three to five painful years with you and love you unconditionally.” No? Me neither. Not until I was nearly 40 years old. Thank you, Jennifer!
We need healthy, non-behavior focused, mentors in the body of Christ. Personal healing is how we begin and can continue experiencing what it means to be a new creation. Saying or hearing ‘it’s over’ or ‘get over it’ only keeps people in their pain and doesn’t allow them to address it with the Healer and Comforter of our soul.
Be the mentor that someone needs. But first, you’ll need to unload your baggage at the feet of Jesus and draw close to God, and he will draw close to you [James 4:10]. Addressing the lies and distortions is necessary because we can only take people as far as we have gone in our healing journey.