What to Do When It Hurts

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There have been numerous occasions throughout my life where it seems all I’m able to do is breathe, and maybe even that doesn’t feel possible. Some situations are really ugly, feel really debilitating, and knock even the strongest people to their knees. Nobody gets exempt from pain in this life, regardless of the facades they may put on.

I feel like I am finally free from a long season of recurring hurt, some of which could be attributed to the typical teenage emotions, but really, that was the icing on the cake of dealing with trials that run far deeper, ones that seem endless. But that is proof again of how no season lasts forever, even the bad times won’t be there to stay, not when a person has Jesus. But in the midst of one of those ugly seasons, what is a person to do? Sometimes even with faith, life can feel worthless and unbearably painful. And if you really feel that way, then I do encourage you to get help from others, because there are people who can help you with those feelings. If you genuinely do battle depression or something along those lines, please reach out for help because like I talk about in this post on anxiety here, there isn’t any shame in that and sometimes it’s necessary. I can’t and won’t make this post about medical advice; all I can do is share my struggles and how God has helped me through them. And I’m praying it will inspire you, too, because even the strongest people go through times where life doesn’t make sense and everything hurts.

Contrary to what people believe, it’s not something to be alarmed by. I would be more worried if you’ve had a cushy life, seemingly without big trials, never knowing what it’s like to have nothing to cling to except God Himself. People like that will be brought to their knees one day, and without making God first, it won’t be good. Then again, sometimes people have to fall like that to find Him. We can’t think we’re exempt from that. But there is nothing more beautiful and liberating than that moment where you realize everything has come undone in your life, and now all you have is God, and it’s just you and Him, and there’s this amazing sense of conquering the world even though everything is a mess. That’s called His peace, that’s called knowing He is all you need, that’s called having the best joy in the whole world because that’s what it is—pure happiness that the world is a mess and there’s not a thing you can do about it except trust God. I’ve been in those moments, and you think you’re going to be freaking out, losing your mind, but you’re not. If you’re in God, He won’t let you. That’s when He’ll pour out His joy in your heart. Everyone else may be hysterical, and you’re the happiest you’ve ever been in your life. Why? Because you’re sadistic? No! Because that moment of total surrender, of knowing you don’t have to be the one to fix things and that the God of the universe is instead fighting for you at that very moment when you need it most is one of the most glorious feelings in this life!

That’s something a pain-free life will never give you—if you even want to call that life pain-free, because anytime you’re doing life without God happiness is just a fleeting pleasure, and pain is by default the norm. I don’t mean to sound harsh with this, but I have to be blunt. I absolutely can’t get on this blog and write about temporary crap that might help you be happy, because it won’t do a dang thing if it’s not accompanied by an authentic relationship with God. I talk more about true happiness in this post here, but God is our Maker, so of course to be happy, we have to be walking with Him.

In those moments of overwhelming pain, it can sometimes be hard to even know where you stand with God. I know I’ve felt that way. Even just recently when I’ve gone through some stuff, I feel so out of control, so everything feels out of control, including Him. And then I accuse Him of not caring for me, of not helping me. But that’s never the case. My grandma has had to remind me several times, that when bad things happen, He’s not the one doing them. That’s such a common misconception people have, and it can be easy to have. It seems natural that when something goes wrong, God made it happen, because He didn’t stop it, did He? But that’s, again, not the case. God looks at trials very differently than we do, and in His eyes, trials are not a bad thing. That’s not to say that He doesn’t think horrible things that happen aren’t horrible—because He absolutely does. But He uses trials to shape us. We should expect them not because He causes them but simply as a result of living on an earth plagued with sin. It’s only natural. But we should handle them differently, because we know more than anyone that this world isn’t going to remain the way it now is, and that even through the darkest nights, God has already won the battle (more on this here)! He’s already taken care of it! Just because you can’t see that, doesn’t mean He hasn’t.

I know it’s hard to think this way when you’re in the midst of something huge. Believe me, I do. And I by no means have always acted like the perfect Christian example in all of my trials. Just recently, in fact, I had a meltdown I am in no way proud of. Sometimes God has given me a strength that surpasses my own understanding in trials, and my character is exemplary. Not so this time. I remember talking with my mom, and literally just about every word that came out of my mouth was a curse word. I really don’t like cursing at all, mainly because everyone does it and thinks nothing of it, and I don’t think it honors God at all. Even so, I’ve been guilty of thinking bad things in my head or letting the occasional one slip here and there, but this time I was going off. And I wasn’t just using the “little” words. No, I was using the big ones. And my mom was like, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you like this before.

Normally I’m not, but on that particular night I was so mad and upset about how certain people acted, about things that kept recurring and never going away. I won’t say I didn’t know what I was doing because I did. I knew what I was doing, and I wanted to do it. And that’s the worst part. I knew I was mad, I knew I felt out of control and distant from God, and it was like I wanted to prove something. Of course, it got me nowhere. Does God still love me? Of course, and I’m so thankful for that. But does He also know I can do better than that? Absolutely.

We can’t justify our behavior because of pain. Everyone has pain, so to think people get a free pass on bad behavior as a result is not okay. But thankfully, God can help us do better. And why would we not want that? Just because we are out of control never means He is. He knows exactly what is going to happen before it does. And because of that, one mistake doesn’t have to be the end.

Because nights later, when I was extremely upset and frustrated again over the same thing, I was pacing, trying my best to talk to God instead of stewing about things. Anyone who’s actually felt that knows what a burden that is to carry anyway, to be mad. It’s not worth it, but sometimes necessary. But that’s why it’s so important to let God have it. So I was talking to Him, and I walked out into my kitchen, and I just had to breathe. And I stopped and I just became conscious of that fact. I’m breathing, breathing just fine. You know why? Because I am just fine. What God is listening to me tell Him does not define me and does not define my life. Is it painful? Does it upset me? Yeah, a whole lot. But it’s not the end. It’s not everything. I just had to stand and breathe and literally feel the strength God poured into my veins, that beautiful feeling I talked about at the beginning. Of knowing despite my rampant thoughts and feelings, I am doing just fine. I’m better than fine, as a matter of fact. Considering the circumstances, I’m doing great. Because He’s promised to make sure of that, to provide for you, to fight for you. But you have to let Him.

Moments before I felt this, I was accusing Him instead of merely venting about things: I was venting and then turning on Him, saying I felt so far away from Him, how I didn’t understand why He wanted me to hurt like this, etc. etc. And I said I didn’t feel Him, didn’t feel Him talking to me or telling me what to do. So finally I’d had it, had it with being mad, had it with fighting a battle I knew I would never win. So I sat on my bed, and I just told God, what do You want me to do? And then a verse did flash in my head: Philippians 4:6-7.

It’s a verse I’ve quoted many times before, but I’ll quote it again:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

But notice how there is something God was telling me to do in there, as a prerequisite to that peace. Present your requests to Him. With thanksgiving. That is huge, that content, thankful mindset.

Because most of the time, that’s half the battle. We construct ideas in our head that we’re somehow exempt from trials and then get entitled and angry when we do go through something. I know that’s how I felt on this particular night. I thought it shouldn’t be happening to me. I shouldn’t have to deal with it. And granted, that may be true. But the world is sinful, and we don’t yet live in a world where people are exempt from heartache. And it was my expectation that life should be better that was really getting me down. But when I thought about that verse, it did hit me. How many times had I just wanted to be done? Fed up with the world and life? But how could I be so blind to how good God has made my life? That’s the real question. Because the truth is that none of us deserve a dang thing. Pain should be a constant in our lives because we deserve it. We’ve all sinned against God and brought this curse against ourselves. But God in His amazing love isn’t going to leave us to suffer in that. He doesn’t owe us anything, but He chose to do that. He chose to die for our sins, to lift us from that curse. And if we are in Him now, we’re not a slave to sin (Romans 6:1-7). That alone is the best gift in the world, to have that perfect relationship with God Himself. Anything else He gives us is extra blessings we also don’t deserve, yet God gives freely because He’s the perfect Father, and that’s what they do.

I haven’t had a bad life by any means, despite the trials. I’m not going to have a bad life. Trials come for seasons, but seasons don’t last forever. Literally speaking, the winter we are hopefully coming out of for good here in Iowa was horrible. But these last few days have been beautiful, dream weather, the kind that makes everything seem right in the world. Nothing bad will last forever.

And for those of us in Christ? We don’t have to worry about anything no matter what season, because we know that He’s going to get us through every single one and make everything beautiful in its time. There will be warmer days. There will be better days. But with Him, every day can be good. He’s the only One who can heal a broken heart, and on your worst of days, He’ll be right there with you. And your best of days, He’ll be right there with you. And a true Christian does not forget about Him once they enter the lighter days. No, those days are sometimes what brings us even closer to Him as much as the bad days because He’s walked you through that journey and now brought you those gifts of wonderful days, and you see Him at work through all of it. Everything good in this life is from Him, so it’s not a sin at all to enjoy good days. Let the good days keep you even closer to Him. Because this is life, the cycle of bad and good, but with God:

Everything ends up being for good. And you just have to remind yourself of that, allow Him to remind you of that. That’s what you’ve got to do when it hurts.

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