Day 3: In Pain

Maybe instead of slamming the door on pain, I need to throw open the door wide and say, Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you have taught me what I need to know.
— Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir
Suffering is actually at the heart of the Christian story. (page 77)

Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. (page 58)
— Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

Somewhere along the way, we may have heard that pain is a helpful resource to us. It tells us something is off. Something must stop. Something is dead wrong.

But what does it mean to practice gratitude in pain? As Glennon and many others point to: pain is a teacher, if we let her in. And like all good teachers, we often hunt them down, many years later, and say: Thank you. You pushed, you prodded, you poked...and now look at me. Because of you, I am who I am.

God is no stranger to pain, to struggle. The big, grand meta-narrative of God’s very own story is that His Son was betrayed by his best friends and then whipped, beaten, scourged, shredded and nailed to a tree. This is after he heard his dear cousin was beheaded not too long before. After he was face to face with disease and demons daily. Suffering, pain, death.

And I am asking you to be thankful in these?

What I am asking is that we would, for just a moment, be willing to consider that beauty can come out of ashes. That babies come after the bearing down...after the near-death of painful-birth.

That unless a seed dies, it cannot bear fruit.

That Sunday came after that treacherous Friday.

And that after winter is spring. Every. Single. Amazing. Time.

And this, unfortunately, is how our busted-up world works. We cannot have one without the other. Pain and joy are tethered on earth; we can get bitter about it or we can better from it.

And, dear one, I don't say this flippantly or callously as if I don't know pain. I say it delicately, with an extended hand of grace.

I have seen cancer take lives. I have wept on bathroom floors with too-young widows. I have shaken fists at infertility for years in my life.  I have grieved for lost husbands, lost babies, lost innocence, lost jobs, lost hopes, and lost dreams. 

And there are days where there is a variety-pack of struggle. Struggle against anxiety, against decisions, and against insecurities. 

So what can we say about gratitude in pain and struggle? 

I can get grateful for these 3 truths: 

God is WITH us and He sees us in our struggles. 

God is FOR us when it seems all else is against us.

God, too, knew pain; He WEPT. 

My King knows pain and my King knows me and my King was there. Is here. I am grateful for that. He sees each tear, knows each tear, bottles each tear. What an affectionate, sweet truth. He is not tired of our tears and He sits with us in our struggle.  

God, thank you that you are with us in struggle. You are with us in what is painful and sad and terrifying and real. Thank you for not being far away, unavailable or shaming about our pain, our struggle, our weakness, our insecurity. Thank you for knowing pain, choosing to walk through it (and not under or around it) and for showing us a way about pain that we need to learn. Thank you for being FOR us; if you made us then you are for us. If you came to earth to be with us, then you are for us. Help us, God, in our struggle and in our pain.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
— John 11:34-36, The story of Lazarus
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
— Psalm 56