“When all you see is pain, you lose sight of me…”~ Papa, from The Shack
Pain. We all will experience it in our lifetime. It comes in many forms – physical, spiritual, emotional….it stalks us, sits outside our doorway, lingers in our mind and our hearts and casts its dark shadow into our souls. The problem with pain is that it is not selective, it happens to “the good and the bad” so to speak and so often times we are caught unprepared and incapable of mitigating it. When someone close to you hurts you, betrays you, lies to you – the pain will knock you flat, eat your mind up, shatter your heart and crush your sense of self. Indeed, there are some seismic betrayals in life that are so destructive it changes a person forever.
It is this kind of pain, the life altering agony that can embitter a person so deeply that they never recover. Your life becomes a proverbial “ground-hog day” where all days and nights run together as you re-experience the pain, sucking in and swallowing the poison and its fall out over and over and over. When you awake it is the first thing on your mind, if you sleep, it is the last thing you remember. You chew and ruminate and gnash it until not only it becomes your constant companion, it also becomes at least a sick sense of comfort – because this pain is one that you now know – and it so awful that it is the familiar demon in your head – spending time with it gives you an odd sense of stability. You reason, “if I can learn to live with this pain, there is not a greater pain out there that can hurt me.” It is a form of PTSD that you refuse to release lest there actually is a greater pain out there waiting to pounce. It is sick. You are sick…and you know instinctively that swallowing this poison will kill you, your Spirit, your heart and your peace – yet you cannot help yourself. Self survival disappears.
That is not His will for us. He wants better things for us in our lives than to live in constant pain. We are made for love by The One who is love. But we say, “well if God is such a good God, why did He allow that pain to enter into my life anyway?” Many years ago I read the book, The Problem With Pain, written by C.S. Lewis. Lewis states this idea like this, “If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy, and if He was almighty He would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”
Ironic that I read that book so many years ago, as if maybe by reading it God was forewarning me that I too would experience a life-altering pain in my future. In Lewis’ case, this book was written about the death of his young wife and the conflagration it caused in his heart, his faith and his very soul. I get it. That kind of pain…
But shortly after this season of my life began, I can also say that in the fog of it I started “seeing” my heavenly Father in many other places. He reminded me almost daily through music or an encouragement from a friend or scripture that He was never going to leave me in this. He confirmed to me that He was in the business of restoration. One Bible verse which I kept hearing from different places stated, “But as for you, what was meant for evil against me; God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:20
In that, I could somehow see a glimpse of what God was doing. A calamity in my life, which I had no control over, brought me to my knees to Him – it felt very evil. But He promised it would be used for good. Romans 8:28 had to become more than just slapping a Bible verse on my putrid wound – it had to become a promise – God’s promise to me…“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
So what does one do with the problem of pain? Will it heal in time? Will you ever “misremember” it? Will you learn to live in it and remain the shadow of the person you were before it happened? To all of this – the answer is yes, no and maybe. It depends on you – not your physical strength or your mental determination – but on your willingness to be changed, molded, and ultimately forged by the fall out of the pain.
As a child of God you must remember a few things. First – everything and anything – good and bad – which happens in our lives is filtered through God’s fingers. Nothing can get to us without His permission first.
I can easily visualize this – like the sand that my young son used to play in by the seaside – he would spend hours grabbing handfuls of wet sand building what he called drip castles. Sand dripping into patty-sized piles that would forge solid foundations ultimately lead to lofty spires and structured castles complete with shell -sized drawing bridges, sea purse windows and cattail flags… a beautiful feat of architectural glory – until the tide rose and the angry waves came in and by morning it was all gone – to be rebuilt and restored again and again. Such an analogy fits for our own lives.
As the scripture states above, what is meant for evil will be used for good – we can count on this if we understand the very character of God – He loves His children. He will always love us. He sent his son, Jesus to die a disgusting excruciating PAIN-filled death – just so we would know that we (and our transgressors) are more than the sum of the mistakes we or they have made. If we will follow and trust Him (through the pain), He will build something in us that can withstand the very gates of Hell (which is way more than any high tide or angry sea)!
We can count on His promises…. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10
I have no choice but to either believe in His restoration and promise – or die to my pain. But God. He was and continues to be faithful and I have been forged in this fire to become a different, stronger, better version of myself. I love deeper, I forgive easier and I am more intentional in my personal relationship with my Savior. He has my heart. I have His attention… and though the problem of pain has not been completely alleviated in my soul – I have learned so much about it and God in my journey. I have learned to look beyond the pain in the moment and instead search the future God is building because of it.
I have engaged in the process as a student, not a teacher…and I dare say though I would never want to invite this type of pain again into my life – I can say with conviction, that without it – I would not have met the God I know today.
Yes, I can see the pain, but now I only see it as it sifts through the fingers of my “Papa.”
So my friend, if you find yourself in a season of pain- go ahead and cry, scream, get furious and vent – and then….accept it – that for whatever reason God allowed it – know that He is building something more beautiful in you that you could ever imagine.
I saw a quote on instagram the other day – I now use it as my phone screen, “You can’t take old baggage to the new places God is taking you….”
Amen to that.