It’s been a hard year for my family and some of our closest friends. Since last December, we’ve faced stroke, difficult work situations for different people, adjusting to loved ones moving to the nursing home, a heartwrenching and heartbreaking end to a marriage, cancer, more difficult work situations, miscarriage, more strokes, several other health situations of varying degrees of “minor,” and most recently, hearing the life-changing proclamation of “Two to three months.” I wrote a few weeks ago about some of the hard situations in my life and how God had spoken to me about using the armor He’s given me to navigate those situations. Now I look back and see that He was using that as preparation because at that point, the majority of the “stuff” in my life right now was not even on my radar then. Had no clue it was coming, most of it. It’s amazing to me that He would be so gracious as to give me the truth that I need before I knew I needed it.
But knowing the truth doesn’t make the “stuff” any less painful or hard or sad. The trials on my plate include relatively small trials like everyday life pressures and needing my wisdom teeth out, to medium trials like my husband facing some procedures and possible surgery and ministering in a transition period at church, to trials that leave me reeling with their magnitude like miscarriage and finding out that my precious Granddaddy is in his last days on this earth. My habit when faced with “trials of various kinds” has always been to respond with a teary-eyed, “It’s too much.” “What’s going to be next? I can’t handle anything else.” This, of course, is wrong thinking. God has promised that He will not tempt me beyond what I can bear, and He is faithful to keep that promise. He has also promised to work everything that happens in my life for my good, to make me more like Christ. I know all of this and my faith is solid. I am not railing at God, shaking my fist and asking Him how He could let these things happen. I have a deep peace in my soul that He is good, He is Sovereign, He is holding me up as He’s promised to do, and that He will lovingly care for the family and friends who are so dear to me and are so heartbroken themselves. None of these trials in my life or the lives of those I love have taken Him by surprise. He marks out the path. Our path will never take a direction that is not filtered through His hand of love. The path right now for this particular group of people is a path of heartache and sorrow. But the path right now is still in His hand. I know this and trust Him with every fiber of my being.
But I am consumed with an overwhelming sadness that seems to permeate every step on the path right now. I can update people on my granddaddy or talk about my miscarriage with no emotion, but I find myself fighting back tears in the midst of a math lesson, breaking down during a phone call with a friend about a totally unrelated subject, struggling to keep control during the announcements at church. My mind wants to shut down, become numb, refuse to think about any of it and just play with my kids all day. To focus on any of it is just too painful. To even write about it here–I’ve been putting it off because it hurts to make it so public and real. I am just so sad. I am tempted to remain in a sort of state of denial so that it won’t hurt so much. But this is not the best thing for me to do. It might help for a little while, when I need to get through the school day without breaking down in tears, but to close myself off from this pain is to deny myself the growth that God intended through this pain. God uses pain and sorrow in our lives to teach us things that we would never learn apart from pain. How can I have fellowship with Jesus in His sufferings if I close myself off to the sufferings He has allowed on my path? So I write. I make myself vulnerable and weak, allowing others to read the very personal and private emotions and thoughts that I would much rather keep to myself. And when people ask me how I’m doing these days, I answer honestly, “It’s tough right now,” instead of just saying “Fine.” I don’t do this for your pity. I don’t do it to try to earn points in the morbid game of “Whose suffering is worse?” that so many people play for some disturbing reason. I’m doing it to open myself up to the pain, to fully experience the path of sadness that God has laid out for me right now, so that I can glean every ounce of learning and growing and becoming more like Jesus possible during this portion of my path.
Some of the pain is directly in my path, some of it I’m watching on the path of someone I love dearly. Their pain affects me in the same way that my pain affects them. My marriage did not end, but my heart is broken over the one of my dear friend that did. I’m not holding the hand of a dying parent, but my heart is broken for those I love who are. And they didn’t lose a baby they carried for such a short time, but they hurt for me because I did. They aren’t sitting at home, four hours away from a beloved grandparent’s side as he finishes his race, but they hurt for me because I am. We feel the pain He has for us, and we feel the pain of those we love. It is as it should be. We have rejoiced together so many times, and now we mourn together. And though it seems so far away from the right now, eventually we will emerge together, stronger for having opened up to the pain.
A song has been on my heart as I’ve struggled with the urge to numb my mind, draw in and protect myself from feeling too much. I write the words here to show how God has used them to help me come to this point of opening up to the pain on my path right now, and also to share them with anyone else who may need them. I will open myself up, experience my hurt, and let it bring me closer to Christ.
Like a Lake, Sara Groves
So much hurt and preservation, like a tendril round my soul. So much painful information, no clear way on how to hold it.
When everything in me is tightening, curling in around this ache, I will lay my heart wide open like the surface of a lake. Wide open like a lake.
Standing at this water’s edge, looking in at God’s own heart. I’ve no idea where to begin to swallow up the way things are.
Everything in me is drawing in, closing in around this pain. I will lay my heart wide open like the surface of a lake. Wide open like a lake.
Bring the wind and bring the thunder, bring the rain til I am tried. When it’s over bring me stillness, let my face reflect the sky, and all the grace and all the wonder of a peace that I can’t fake. Wide open like a lake.
Everything in me is tightening, curling in around this ache. I am fighting to stay open, I am fighting to stay open. Open, wide open, open like a lake.