Sometimes when something hurts me I find myself trying to construct a sort of hard, shiny outer shell for my heart. Like a bumper, to bounce the pain off of my heart. I don't want to feel the pain so I thicken or callus myself against it, hoping the pain won't sink in to my core.
It doesn't work.
I may think it 's working, I may tell myself that it's working, for a time I might even feel like it's working. But eventually that outer shell cracks and the pain I've been trying to keep at a distance trickles into every crack and crevice and straight into my heart. Which my heart knew the pain was there all along, weighing down on the defense I so sincerely constructed.
No one wants to hurt. We all avoid hurt and that makes sense. However, reality is that we do hurt. Encountering painful situations is a part of life. We can't drive out hearts around like bumper boats, ramming into things that bring us pain and thinking that pain will just bounce off and we'll keep going full speed ahead.
So what do we do with our pain?
This morning I read 1 Samuel 1, which introduces us to a story about a woman named Hannah. Hannah wanted a son more than anything, but for some reason she was barren. On top of the pain of being unable to conceive Hannah also shared her husband with a rival wife who was cruel and taunted Hannah about her inability to have children. Hannah's husband tried to comfort her, but there was no comfort for Hannah. She was in pain and she could not deny it.
So what did Hannah do with her immense pain? In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly (verse 10). And when the priest questioned Hannah, thinking that she was drunk, she replied, "Not so, my lord, I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief." (verses 15-16).
Those are strong words. Deep anguish. Weeping bitterly. Deeply troubled. Great anguish and grief.
If you know the story of Hannah, you know that eventually she got what she wanted - a son, named Samuel, who she dedicated to God's service. However, that could not be farther from my point. Let us not come away from this story thinking if I just pray hard enough, God will give me what I want.
What you want is Him. And He will give you Himself until you are overflowing, when you come to Him in sincerity, honestly, and with humility. Hannah didn't try to act like it wasn't hurting her that she couldn't have children. She was honest with herself, she was honest with others, and she was honest with God.
Our hearts our precious both to us and to Jesus. When we experience great pain, He greatly cares. We are not in control, He is, and He certainly does things (or allows things to happen) that we do not understand or enjoy. In those situations (and I might argue in all situations) our feelings are HIS. Our feelings are the sincerest part of ourselves and deserve to be offered up to God's love and power.
Whether your feelings are good or bad, right or wrong, wanted or unwanted - they are worthy of being lifted up to your Creator for His care. He knows what to do with the powerful feelings you are experiencing. He knows how to calm and comfort the pain or anxiety. How to get to the root of the rage. How to transform the selfishness and how strengthen your joy.
I visualize an altar and us laying down our feelings, like an offering. Taking off our hard outer shells and leathery calluses and laying our soft, vulnerable hearts at the feet of Jesus. Saying - Here, this is what's true. This is the state of my heart. This is how I feel. This is what I fear. This is what I hope. I can't handle this on my own, Lord, YOU DO IT.
And He will. I'm not saying He'll give you the son you've been praying for, but He will give you Himself. When you seek the Lord with all your heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). And I can't explain it to you in words that would make sense, but experiencing the Presence of Jesus Christ in your life is the best thing that could ever happen to you.
I urge you to give Him your pain.
Temporary is my time, ain't nothing on this world that's mine
Except the will I found to carry on
Free is not your right to chose
It's answering what's asked of you
To give the love you find until it's gone
(The Avett Brothers - Ill With Want)