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Let’s Hear it for Pain!

(Note: this blog is also featured on Hearitfirst.com this week.)


Raise your hand if that’s your first thought when things go wrong.

Didn’t think so.

You know all those verses in the bible that talk about rejoicing in the midst of trials? I’m terrible at that. In fact, when something goes wrong in my life, I’m rarely thinking, “What is God trying to teach me?” It’s usually something more like “God, why are you doing this to me? Why did you let this happen?”

It’s something I’m trying to work on.

A couple years back, I was having a miserable time in my life. Honestly, 2005 was one of the worst years I’ve ever had. My mom had cancer, my dad lost his job, we had to move out of the one house I’d ever gotten attached to, I had one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had, and my grandma died. It was really just a rotten year.

But, I survived it. And as things began to get better, I found myself thanking God for moving me out of that dark and dry time. I suppose that’s a better response than not thanking him, but it occurred to me that I could have had a much better attitude during the whole thing.

I’m not one of those people who thinks that being a Christian means putting on a smiley face no matter what’s going wrong in life. You know what I mean. There are people who will always say they are “Fine, thanks,” when you ask them how they are. Although, I admit, I don’t exactly like for people to see me crying, either. I say I believe in being authentic, but I don’t like to let everyone see that I’m hurting.

Yet the Psalms are full of laments. A lament is when you cry out to God in the midst of your troubles. And I was so relieved when I learned that being honest with God was okay. I pour my heart out to Him all the time—and I especially did that Awful Year. BUT I neglected something very important. A Psalm of Lament, no matter how bad the situation was, ends in praise. The Psalmist would break off from his pleading and moaning and end up steadfastly trusting in God’s ultimate goodness.

That’s the hardest part, at least for me. I have a hard time seeing past my circumstances, and trusting that God has something good for me. Oh, I believe it, deep down; but I don’t usually feel it.

The other day, I found out something that troubled my heart. It hurt—even though I truly know that it was good for me. It was not what I had in mind for me, but as I thought about the situation, I realized that it was a perfect opportunity for me to praise God, even when I didn’t feel like it. Understand, I wasn’t mad at God, or shaking a fist or anything; I just felt deeply disappointed. But, I praised Him anyway. And though I don’t actually feel a whole lot better today, I do have a peace about the situation.

It's one of those things where God is trying to teach me not only patience, but to be present. Remember in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, where, where Luke goes to see Yoda? And Yoda says about him, "A long time have I watched this one. All his life as he looked away...to the future, the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing."

That's me. I don't know if it's because I have a good imagination, or because I love stories so much, but I have such an easy time picturing what I think God has in store for me. What I wish God had in store for me. And it's so easy for me to be focused on the things to come that I forget to pay attention to what I'm supposed to be doing now.

And when things are a little difficult, like now, it's even easier to wish away the hard circumstances. And that's exactly what God is trying to break me of.

It isn’t easy. But it is good, because God is Good. All the time, as my pastor says. All the time, God is good. Especially today.


Carol said...

Larry Crabb writes about the same thing in his book Shattered Dreams, which I am reading now. It ultimately says that when we have things that don't turn out the way we had wanted or hoped they would that God wants to use this to have us turn to Him and get to know Him which is the best thing that could ever dream. And he can use our pain to do that. Imagine having an truely intimate relationship with our creator? What could be better? What if we learned to want the dreams he wants for us? If we could only learn to grasp this!!!

lynne said...

Saw your "shameless blog promotion" on your email and clicked...I just want you to know that I can completely relate to just about everything that you said. My 2006 was the worst on record and the closest I ever thought I could come to total break down. I swear that reading your entry was like reading my very own thoughts. I should have known that we'd be kindred spirits beyond the Scotland connection! I'm still working on the whole "being thankful in the midst of trial" thing. I'm getting better, but I still have quite a ways to go. But I am grateful that I'm finding the joy in life that I think I lost for a while. And it feels good to laugh again. I lost that for a while too...If you ever need to commiserate with someone, you just let me know! Sometimes its just nice to know that someone else knows how you feel and has been there too.

mia said...

I can relate too. 2006 was definitely up there as one of the worst ever, although it had a few good moments too. I'm definitely hoping this year is better and so far it has been. But God has been showing me how to be content wherever I am at. And you know, it really makes a difference. I'm not sure that life that has actually improved that much, but I think my perspective definitely has and it makes all the difference. :o)