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8th of February

Pushing Through the Pain

Her whole body betrays her.  Like a sudden massive earthquake, all her muscles convulse. Her teeth chatter. Her hands shake. She can’t chew. She can’t hold a cup of tea. Even talking is hard as she thinks one word but out comes another.  Doctors aren’t sure what’s happening deep in that brain.

As if her own chronic physical problems and the emotional suffering they bring are not enough, she’s pained for her children, all the while placing each in God’s hands. She’s dealing with critical issues—life-and-death issues that could bury a mother alive in grief but for God in whom she trusts. Sometimes when you’re peeled back to the bone, you can hear that small whispered voice of the One standing right beside you, asking you . . .

Do you want to go away as well?

Not this one woman.  No matter the suffering ahead, she has come too far to turn back now. She would respond, “Lord, to whom would I go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

Suffering will do that to a soul. It will sever the convenient from the serious. It will cause you to lean in harder or to turn away hard.

I saw this woman last week, this dear sister-friend. I asked, “How are you?”

“I’m ok,” she said with a rather blank expression.

I looked into her face and saw something far away from “ok”. So I pushed a bit. I do that. Pushing a bit is what true soul-sisters do to get to the heart of a matter. We challenge just enough so we can offer each other the tangible love of God at our lowest points with no masks and no charades.

The skies of her eyes rained tears as I just stood there and hugged her in what felt like a quiet, holy moment. Because when you come to the end of yourself, you can feel like you’re standing naked, wondering if you’re still worthy of love anymore for all the humbling, for all the fighting the humbling. And that’s the critical entry point to the greatest Love.

When we have nothing left to offer but our humble brokenness, we might finally let go of our lesser loves and find our Best Love.

Do I really understand that kind of Love?

That’s not the question I’m asking anymore. I don’t need to understand God’s love. I need to experience God’s love. I don’t need to observe and analyze God’s love from a distance. I need to immerse myself in God’s love and let it move me where God wills. Like the pelicans on wing inches above the surf. Like the dolphins arching and diving as they move north. Like my body, aware of the water’s gentle movement across my skin, the variations of warm and cool currents.

I close my eyes, relax in the vast, and give thanks to our God whose Love has no end.  And, more than a thousand miles away, I sent a prayer for my friend.


When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain




  • Thank you, Heather. These are excellent words.

  • Beautiful and poignant. Thank you, Heather, for the words and the images. And for showing us how to love with open hands.

    • Heather MacLaren Johnson Feb 9, 2018 at 7:54 pm

      Thank you, Ingrid. Sometimes it’s so hard to know how to love well. I just pray and go, trusting the Holy Spirit will make the most of my feeble offerings.

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