The Gift found through Pain
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” James 1:2
We are innately built to flee from things that hurt. Avoiding pain is a natural defense. Stay away from the edge of the cliff, don’t step into oncoming traffic, watch out for hot stoves, don’t drink poison. It’s a matter of safety and self-preservation. But what about things that gouge holes into your heart, blur your focus and sit on your lungs? Things like failure, rejection, betrayal, … loss.
Just like hot stoves, we learn the sting of pain and then “get better” at avoiding it. Creating standards like: Run from conversations that make you feel small. Disappear when the tension rises. Stay away from brokenness. Get distracted. Don’t trust. Fill the air with pretense. Masks will save you. Don’t open up. Whatever you do, DO NOT share. Don’t care.
Better yet, play it safe, Don’t feel.
Recoiling from it all, we chalk it up to lessons learned and put up guards, warning lights and danger indicators. Pretending we’re put together, we hide, even from God.
I know. That was my plan and I executed it with precision for years.
But there’s a flip side to this protection plan. It has a compoundable cost. It’s never just one or two emotions you bypass. Humans can’t separate the experience of one feeling from all the others. (Brené Brown researched this profoundly in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”). To block out pain you also have to limit joy. To avoid rejection you also have to give up connection. To run from disappointment you’ll leave achievement in the dust. You can’t avoid one without loosing the other.
This is what I mean by dying. To live severed like this is a slow death, one that’s almost undetectable. It begins by silencing you with shame, then diminishing connection with others and finally extinguishing all hope.
Standing on the brink of extinction can change a person. It did me. In that raw and desperate place I took a really long look at my pain. Years of emotional and spiritual abuse had left some gaping wounds, but as I peered into them I noticed a genesis of sorts – it was a place to begin and I called out for a Savior.
At my most vulnerable, my most exposed, my most intense feelings was my most desperate call for Jesus. That messy space of vulnerability then became a place of communion. His brokenness met mine.
Immanuel – God with Us.
Beyond pretense. Away from all the expectations and stipulations faith became real. My brokenness was a place to see His love. My fears became a place to notice His promises. My wounds sealed by His. My pain became a gift of connection.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven authenticity of your faith … may result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7