Tuesday, April 30, 2013

God, pain, healing

Is God Enough when We are Hurting?
Why do people cut themselves? Why do they drink themselves to oblivion? Why are they workaholics? Why do they avoid life, run and hide. Why do they build a small empire of stuff?  Why do they give up?

     Why do good Christian people hide their deepest heartaches?

Why do word curses hurt and destroy our belief about ourselves? Picture yourself in the midst of your pain. The needle you hold in your hand has become your best friend and your worst enemy, the hopelessness of it all, losing everything and everyone who is important to you. As in the song “Hurt,” everyone goes away in the end.

     Have you ever felt that aloneness?

Do Christian people sometimes feel this way? Is it where many people operate in their quietest moments? The song ends with the lyric, “I will find a way.” What way? That way can only be found in Jesus.  And it isn’t trite, it isn’t temporary or illusive.  It is true, God can be found, and He also can heal the hurt.

     For twenty-one years my life was imprisoned in pain, a pain others could not see.

My pain was invisible to others. I was a good person, a godly person. I loved God. I served God.  I was obedient to God in my desires. I didn’t run or avoid.  I tried to not blame. Yet, I cried alone, sitting against a tree in the orchard where I farm, a place away from my children where no-one could see me in my pain, my mask removed, the place where raw-emotions came to the surface, after I felt demeaned, made to feel like a nothing, an unwanted person. I felt as if I was dying inside, despite my constant vigilance to do the right thing and be a good person. I didn't understand "why?"

The pain, a constant companion I could not shake, a cloak that draped my soul in sadness.

I became accustomed to keeping a stiff upper lip.  I did my best.  I worked hard. I was sincere, thoughtful, kind, not given to anger or self-centeredness. But, it was there and I suffered. Only God knew the ache in my heart, the wound that would bleed time and time again. We are all different, our negative experiences vary from moderate to severe. Some people get stuck for years by a curse put on them by someone who was thoughtless. There are many of them: “I don’t love you.  No one could ever love you.”  “You’re stupid.”  “Don’t you ever do anything right.”  “I’m leaving you,”  translated in heart language, you really don’t matter to me, in-fact, you never did all that much
And the list goes on.

      So we do whatever we can do to deal with the pain, to re-mediate its hold on us.

There are the endless ways we pursue happiness, the fun things that make life bearable, to find our small pint of happiness though often illusive and temporary. The emptiness, the despair, the quiet desperation, the disappointment with life. We bury the pain where it is hidden, we will find a substitute to medicate the pain especially if it is one of those over-the-top on the emotional Richter scale.

And worse yet, there can be another problem that stymies us in this personal Christian journey of ours. Sometimes, even when we love and serve God, it is as if He is silent, deaf to our pleas—failing to deliver that which we desire  and long for so desperately, the longing deep in our hearts, a residual element that betrays us as we live out our Christian walk by doing and doing, doing all the right things. But the emptiness is present as we do our many good and righteous deeds. Why is this?  This is the hardest of questions to answer but I will attempt to give my insight into the situation.

This one’s personal.

I will use a passage of scripture to illustrate the concept of closeness to God that is meaningful and helps us where we’re at, making us real as followers of Christ.

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart and ye shall find rest, for my yoke is easy and  my burden is light.”  KJV

“COME unto ME”
The first thing to note in this scripture is that “Come unto me,” denotes a requiring of action on our part, which is common to change if we want help. It takes effort on our part, from our self, a seeking of Him. Personal initiative is the beginning, the first step. It is what He wants from us. God is the object, it is unto “Me.” This is key, to find God in it all, in every circumstance of life.

The question is, how do we “come”?

The coming is in openness, in surrender, in willingness. Or do we dictate to God?  How much do we let “self,” even hurt, dictate its agenda?  “Come” requires trust, not “reason.” Where are we to come?  And what will we find?

“ all ye that LABOR and are HEAVY LADEN”
Labor is common to all humanity. When giving birth, the labor is intense, painful, absorbing, but with a purpose, the end result makes it worth the struggle. Most types of labor are difficult, hard, sometimes punishing, sometimes lonely, sometimes more that we think we can bear, often demanding of us everything.

      Labor is the daily struggle of life on this planet.

The first thing I think of is tired, tired of striving, weary of life, the endless circumstances of life. At times, the labor defines its burden, its hopelessness, discouragement. It can be the result of pain and injustice; the unfairness, the lack of acknowledgement of our worth by those in our lives—family, co-workers, even people in our own church families who are abrupt, critical, or angry with us. There is a weariness, a sense of loss. These are the threads that weave throughout our lives.

     The losses grow in number the longer we live.

We are weary of the disappointment in life, when we have tried so hard, given so much even unconditional love, when we have gone above and beyond and have been faithful to God. We wonder where He’s been, why He didn’t answer, the harshness of it all wars within our heads. Is life supposed to be this way?

“ and I WILL give you REST”
“Rest” in the context seems to indicate a giving up, a laying down of self and wants, a form of peace. Do you ever watch someone at rest, sleeping, snoozing—a baby, a child, a mate?

     Your heart is moved as you watch, you identify with your caring for that person.

God wants us to find our “rest” in Him, not in circumstances, not in temporary fixes, not in things. We get on a treadmill of busyness rather than resting in Him. Often we get involved in cycles of addiction to re-mediate the pain rather than finding the solution in God. It is not found in friendships, no matter how fulfilling and strong they may be.

    True nurturing “rest” is found in God alone for He is a God of peace.

This type of “rest” is an answer to the weariness of our souls, our burdens, and our hearts.

“Take my yoke,” upon you is the whole man active. Active again?  We ‘take’ it upon us. Why would we want to do this? Why do we do this?  Why the word yoke?  It suggest a joining, a binding together. We are also bound in this yoke to our heavenly God, the Father, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit—the Three-in-One Triune Being (Trinitarian).

“.and LEARN of ME”
When we rest, give it all up to Him, let it go—our hopes, our dreams, our plans, our desires, our wants, our right to vengeance—our rights to happiness and self-fulfillment; then and only then will we truly learn of Him.

It’s not just listening,  believing, or knowing all the right scriptures, correct theology,                                               and pat answers.

No. It is not about all of these for it is not just about knowing the right things. They really are about knowledge about God not about learning of Him. We can’t learn of Him until we surrender our “us”, our “me” that is occupying the throne of our life, surrender ourselves to Him until it is God is occupying the throne of our life, often requiring a daily submitting to Him.

It opens a capacity within us to hear God and His desires for us.

We will learn His daily purposes not just the long-term plans. God removes the dross, the many, many foreign particles that don’t belong from our lives which deflect from His Life in us. The ‘learning’ is really a consecration process. not something we seek (an adding on), no,  it is an allowing of God to meet us where we are at, an internal changing whereby He is a well-spring inside of us releasing His cleansing fountain to make us pure vessels, objects that have Christ’s stamp, His identifying mark for all to see. In our surrendered life we have a greater capacity to learn from Him and of Him because God is more fully active in our minds and heart. In submitting to God and to His yoke we allow a transformation to take place. The ‘learning’ becomes our modus operandus. We won’t be able to stop changing into Christ’s likeness unless we quit yielding to Him.

for I am MEEK and LOWLY of  HEART”

GOD is gentle. He is kind. He is humble. People who have found God, really found Him in this way, are different. They have a quality about them, a softness, a softness that includes quiet strength. It shows outwardly—they are gentle and humble in heart. In truth, it is a presence-a Divine Presence, a beauty that comes from within that lights the eyes with life and peace, an inner radiance that spills forth in splashes of joy and inner delight, never drawing attention to itself.

In God’s gentleness, He cleanses our pain and then goes about the business of mending our broken hearts.

God touches us where we have been wounded by thoughtless words and unkind actions. Only God can fully do this. A therapist will guide us down the right path toward our healing and wholeness in a good way, but only God can meet us in the inner recesses of our hearts—if we will be brave enough and honest enough to let Him. It is a process, one that may be painful, especially when the painful experiences have piled up into a formidable fortress blocking emotions inside that have been outworking in us in harmful destructive ways.

It was extremely painful for me.

But one by one I gave my hurts to God as He helped me see them, showing me how they were in there beyond my ability to expose or remediate. He gently released the inner hurts’ hold on me.  My gentle Father-God met me there as I re-visited the ache in my heart, holding me in His tight embrace as He wiped my endless tears from swollen eyelids, His love, warm and comforting, gentle.

and ye SHALL find REST for your SOULS”
This is an active thought.  We will find.  We will! What is it that we will find?  The answer? Rest, rest unto your souls. This is a spiritual rest, retreat, resuscitation, renewing, reviving. It is joy. The object of the rest is unto our souls, our inner self, the part that is the center of our being—our real self. Not to be confused with God’s spirit in us.

Our great need to be loved and wanted can be found in human love, but not fully.

We see people around us, trying to capture this great desire and inner need, by finding the one person, the boyfriend, the mate, the child, the parent, the friend, to satisfy their need, be their all-in-all.

But no-one can completely deliver—NO ONE!

There are great “loves” in this world but they too will fall short in the end. They are temporary, just in this life but not in the life to come. Boy, don’t we want it! Me included! Yet, I know as sure as I am writing this that only God can meet this deepest longing in our hearts. It is not easy to find Him, especially as our all-in-all.  Why is this? Possibly because we are too busy living our lives the way we think is right and good, and haven’t stopped to be still— to open the fractures in our  hearts, to release our tight hold on our own hearts, to let Him in to possess our neediness, to help cleanse and restore us to new life.

It is as if we have planted a vine in our heart that has grown over the years, that has wrapped its creeping tendrils, growing tighter and more dense.

Even our good acts of kindness and our self-righteous piety has put crevasses where the pain resides, those things we don’t talk about. Then we say, “It’s good enough, I’m what God wants me to be.” We think we are secure—not noticing that the vine has covered our hearts, hiding the fissures that are imperfectly remediated, a spiritual fa├žade, a front, hiding the truth, our real self from view. It is just that, “good enough.” It will never be real and vibrant until we release our hearts by asking God to reveal our thoughts and hurts to Him.

Is it time to question our motives, to let go of all that we love and grab tightly as our security?

It is in the seeking, the coming—the surrender. Here’s the key—come to Him on His terms, not our terms. He cuts the vines, cleanses the fracture lines, restores the heart  to health. It won’t be a temporary fix, the mountain top experience.

Instead it will be permanent, life changing—REAL.

“for my YOKE is EASY and MY BURDEN is LIGHT.”
God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light, an oxymoron it seems. How can a yoke be easy and a burden light? It doesn’t make sense.  Aren’t they opposites?  Is this a confusion of terms? Don’t we hate the burden, the pain of life—the struggle of living a victorious life?

Or not so victorious Christian life?

Of course, it’s true. They are in opposition in the natural realm. Look closely, it’s not our burden-it is His burden. It’s not our yoke, it is His yoke—we are in this together. We can’t live this life without Him, at least not successfully. We are a team-God is in us—through His redemptive work.

And we are in Him-as adopted sons and daughters.

When we try to get independent of Him-we strain and pull for our own way. God prevents us-for we are Bound to Him—but it’s rough for awhile and the strain is there. We pull harder but He is steady—the calm director of our destiny. Conversely, when we give up and are weary, discouraged, unhappy, or we fall and stumble, He is there as well, lifting us up, pulling us through the trying circumstance, even when He is the unseen force working behind the scenes like in the Footprints Poem.

There are times we want to quit-want to lie down (It’s too hard!). It’s too much (I don’t want to do this anymore). And times we want to rebel (I don’t like this.  I’m going to do it MY way). But God is with us in these moments too. The truth is, we are not in it alone and He has bound Himself to us. He is the lead person in the relationship and we are the follower, He is the needle and we are the thread.

God is our friend.  He seeks intimacy with us.

He wants us to yield our cares, our desires, our needs—all of them, to Him. God wants to be our “Main Squeeze,”  the one we love the most, more than any of our human relationships, more than our own desires and wants, more than even our own right to self. God loves us, we are dear to His heart.

Why?  Why is this?  We’re only human.

It is because God’s love for us is so strong, so passionate that He desires to have it returned which is one of the reasons why He created us in the first place. God longs for us to know Him and find our joy in Him.

It is similar to when we want to be with a person we love all the time but we find we can only see them for a limited amount of time. We alter our schedule and responsibilities in order to make time to see that person, even at the expense of other things dear to us. God wants our love, our friendship, our time, our desire for Him to be returned. I believe God is this way. We are dependent on Him, but it need not be a contest of God’s will versus our will. We pull together. He in me and me in Him. Our lives pivot with Him, at His command. Even our bolting and erratic behaviors are not apart from His yoke. No matter how independent or self-motivated we are. That is true ‘rest.’

The key to rest is found in God.  It can not and it will not happen until we let go of ourselves.
Come to Him,  look deeply inward, ask to take His yoke, His Life as part of yours.  Seek to learn not just know! Allow Him to manifest Himself in you by actually surrendering your right to yourself.  And the ‘rest’ will come and with it there will be peace, joy, and genuine Christ-likeness.  We stop being phonies and we become real.  And the ‘pain’?…it also is a process of giving it to God and seeking Him for healing.  The healing is a part of the process of finding Him in openness without self-sufficiency.
Norma L. Brumbaugh
Author: The Meeting Place

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