I started my reply to her email the other day like this . . .
My dear friend! I can feel your aching heart! I wish I could wave a wand and make it all better. But we both know better. I can’t. You can’t. We just can’t make all these huge problems go away.
Then came the call from a friend crying about a child in trouble. I repeated the same words above, more or less. Another call came from another friend facing a financial crisis through no fault of her own. I repeated my words—again.
I keep repeating, over and over, like I’m some endless looping song of sorry. Because our problems and the accompanying pain of them never ends. There’s always something, constant as Lake Michigan’s shore where I watch waves curl and crash in repetitious rhythm on a rough day. We can’t stop the waves of the Great Lake and we surely can’t stop all causes of pain in this life.
We all have our sources of pain. Some are the same. Some are different.
So we accept and deal—or we reject and deny.
Which brings more life—a better life? Accept and deal. Harness and channel pain’s energy for good, for growth. That’s what God does. God takes the inevitable pain caused from a broken world and uses what can destroy us to build us up. God uses what can crush us to make us stronger. In the hands of our good God, pain is an instrument of healing. And here’s what’s wild . . .
We get to decide whether or not to cooperate with God’s use of pain in our lives. We choose. Every minute of every day, we choose. We choose what we think and what we do.
We can run from pain and run from God—running into denial and creating more intense cycles of pain because we won’t learn from His word. Or, we can face our pain and run to God—who is Love—who is Life—who is Truth. God shows us the way to live fully, even here in this broken world, even in the midst of all our pain.
By accepting Pain as a visitor when she comes calling, we can learn quite a bit—like how others love us in our weakness—like how strong we become because of the strain—like how God sustains us in what we most certainly think will wipe us out.
We get to choose how we deal with others also. We can avoid others’ pain and avoid true intimacy, which ends up leaving us all poorer in the end. Or, we can help bear each other’s burdens, each fulfilling the law of Christ to love others as if they were us (Galatians 6:1 & Matthew 22:39), making us all richer in the end.
In holy doses, Pain can be our friend. She motivates us to find relief, to seek joy. But in our quest for a comfortable life, we too often run away from Pain’s lessons. In the backrooms of our souls we can smell the stench of stagnant and decaying relationships. We can see the sagging skin of everything we once saw as fresh and appealing, promising peace. Sooner or later, everyone and everything gets old and we start feeling the empty longing for a meaningful life all over again.
So we run, again.
We run from one thing to the next—from one person to the next—looking, seeking, inwardly pleading for a drip of peace for our fast-emptying soul. But our souls have holes and we leak faster than we can be filled. So we all stand around bleeding out, desperate for someone, something, anything that can pour in faster or plug up all our holes and stop all this insane spilling out.
With what do we frantically fill and plug? Probably the same old smorgasbord.
I have sampled the ways of the world—the delicacies from its table. I’ve tried relationships. I’ve tried work and career—several. I’ve tried marriage—twice. I’ve tried kids and family. I’ve tried money and possessions and success. I’ve relied on looks and books. I’ve tried hobbies. I’ve tried service. I’ve tried causes. Some are better fillers than others but none fill quite like Christ—THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life.
Because Jesus isn’t a fix. He’s the Fixer.
Jesus came to fix the whole broken mess we’ve made of everything and everyone by becoming broken—for us—and showing us the way to a true life.
Will we come to Him? Or will we keep running back to the table of worldly fixes, still trying to fool the world and even ourselves?
In the deeper parts of ourselves, we know. We’re not fooling anyone with all our running away, our hiding, our attempts at self-filling. We know, deep down, that all we use to give us a sense of security and peace and happiness in life can be lost in a moment. Everything we bank on in the here and now can take a nose dive and crash unexpectedly, leaving us scrambling for some steady hand to keep us from free-falling along with our hopes and our dreams. If we were really serious about risk management in our lives, we’d manage to seek until we find the filling no one and nothing else can offer but Christ and His ways.
I wish I had magic words to heal your wounds, my friends. I don’t. I can’t take away your pain. But I can encourage you to let me share your burden as we seek the Way, the Truth, and the Life together. The One who invites us to cast all our cares upon Him is calling us all. How about we share our burdens, not trying to fix, but reminding each other that we have a loving Fixer who will only use pain until it has produced a holy work in both of us. And when Pain finally leaves, as it will, we will never be left alone. We will always have Jesus—and each other. What more do we need, really, for peace that passes all understanding?