Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pain: What I Learned From Depression, Grief & Brokenness.

It is just outrageous how much I've been growing. You know the first day you feel better after being horribly sick for awhile? You wake up and think, "MAN. I feel so GOOD." It's like that. I am in absolute awe of how good life is lately, and so grateful that God follows through on every single promise. My circumstances have not changed - but my heart has. I am proof that with God, all things are possible. Proof that faith reaps a great harvest beyond what we can expect or comprehend. Proof that healing is real, not just a code word for acceptance of your shit situation.

One of the things that has been breaking my heart lately is watching so many friends and beautiful people go through devastating loss, heartbreak, pain, confusion, betrayal, self-hatred and various struggles - and to offer no greater help than to say, "Go to God. He loves you more than you can ever grasp, and will heal every hurt and answer every question." Because I know that it is one of the hardest things in the world to decide to believe in the midst of all this that God will heal. God will comfort. That one day, we will get to the point where we are on the other side, and become grateful for the pain we went through. Yes, grateful.

Note: I say pain a lot in this post. What I am talking about is the heartwrenching, deepest ache, numbing, debilitating, lonely, hopeless, rock-bottom, can't move, can't function, have-no-one-to-go-to, can't breathe because your lungs are being crushed, utter desperation and despair type of pain. If you've been here, I am talking to you. I know pain.

We talk a lot about healing, about moving on. Growing up, 'getting over it.' By the time all of us go through about 20 years of life, let alone 30 or 40, we're like children that have been hit by trucks on the highway - broken bones, internal bleeding, psychological damage, permanent handicaps, lost limbs. We cannot help but talk about healing, and we operate through our injuries.

We learn to forgive the truck drivers, over and over and over. As we should. But healing? For this we must submit ourselves to the surgeon. We MUST put our bodies, minds and hearts under the lights on the operating table and say, "Fix me. Please, fix me. I cannot."

The last time I checked, surgery was never enjoyable. Stitches aren't fun. Having chunks of debris being picked out of your flesh is excruciating. Having bones re-set is pain upon pain.

But tell me this: Why do you not submit yourself to the one who can heal you?

I didn't, because I was terrified of learning to walk without my crutches. We grow to love what slows us down. I didn't, because I didn't trust a surgeon I couldn't see. I didn't, because it meant that I would have to lie still, and trust hands that I didn't understand. I didn't, because I thought I would get a cookie-cutter Christian treatment that didn't fit me and my unique pain. I didn't, because I thought I would die if I experienced more pain. I didn't, because I thought healing meant, "God will use this for good if you learn to live with this hurt." I didn't, because I didn't think God offered healing as the dictionary defines it: to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment.

I didn't, because I didn't want to be healed; without wounds. Because I wanted everyone to see what the truck had done to me. To remain injured and in pain meant that everyone would know - and when we are broken, we have a desperate need for others to know. To be validated in our pain. Because usually, those that hurt us are those we love, and consequently, those that hurt us are the ones that do not validate our pain - so we become living, walking messes of cognitive dissonance, silently begging for comfort from those who tell us that we either are not in pain or deserve to be in it. In my experience, I would accurately describe this as hell on earth.

I remember at a low point telling my friend Kelly, "I don't even want to be happy."

I have found that the greatest obstacle between us and God is pain.

Why? Because we are STILL like children in hospital. Crying, shaking, sobbing, and hiding...begging the nurse to not take us to the doctor, because he has needles, knives and scary looking tools. Operating rooms are terrifying.

An interesting thing about humans is that we never change from child into adult. It's not linear. We simply add to and expand ourselves, until one day the calendar says we are an adult. The core of us is still a child. In order to get ourselves to that operating table, we must either choose to believe (faith) the adult that tells us it is for our benefit, or be sedated and held down. Faith is being a child, and choosing to believe something that scares us because we do not know it.

Last night over dinner with Julie, we were talking about my family, and I explained how grateful I was for all the pain I'd been through. Why? Because I have learned to trust the surgeon. I have experienced some of the most difficult pain, and come out alive. I have a compassion and empathy and love for others in pain that will never leave, that has been anchored in the depths of my heart by pain. [ You know we rarely remember exactly what was said or done, but we always remember how it made us feel? Emotions carry a greater weight than specific words and actions. ] I am grateful for pain.

The greatest lesson I have learned through pain is the character of the surgeon.

I have learned that it is his nature to HEAL. His heart to LOVE. His way to COMFORT. His purpose to make us WHOLE.

The second greatest lesson I have learned through pain is to trust what He says over what I feel or know.

He WILL restore; nothing is beyond recovery or worthwhile purpose. He is not harsh, he is not rough, he is not a punishing or angry healer. He will never send you away because the pain is 'your fault.' The pain WILL lessen, and it lessens through patient, steady, often stupid-looking faith. It takes time, but we must hold out, and believe. It will come. It's a promise.

It is easier to trust a doctor with our bodies than with our hearts and minds, but I beg you to trust him.

But trust him wholly. His medicine, his procedures, his love, his way. We cannot half-ass healing, lest we end up worse than where we started. Always go back to him. When it starts to hurt, go to him. Again. And again. And again. When it doesn't make sense, go back to him. When you freak out again, go back to him. When the result doesn't look how you thought it would, go back to him. Always go back to him.

And there is no guilt or shame in asking him for painkillers along the way. But his painkillers, not ours.

I have glimpsed the other side, and it is good.

- - -

"This is what the Lord says:

Your wound is incurable; your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your case, no remedy for your wounds, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord. Because you are called an outcast for whom no one cares. I will restore life to you and have compassion on you, a city will be rebuilt on your ruins,and the palace will stand in it's proper place." Jeremiah 30

It was I who taught her to walk, taking her by the arms; but she did not realize it was I who healed her. I led her with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from her neck and bent down to feed her. - Hosea 11:3-4

I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten. - Joel 2:25

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:13


courtney clark said...

Exactly what i needed to read, I can't wait to start my road to wholeness now that this splinter is being removed from my heart.
hope you'll be there with me for the journey, i love you.

Katherine said...

Thank you so, so much for sharing and providing this encouragement. On a far lesser scale, I still struggle with the feelings of tyranny imposed by a holy father, and the lack of relationship with him now. Thank you for showing me MY heart as well as yours -- and for reminding me what it looks like when pain is redeemed. You are beautiful.

kelly said...

so amazing.
i love this because it speaks to me on multiple levels. there is the big picture of trusting the Lord to do what He promised me. and there's the smaller, day to day things.
i like your paragraph on not wanting to be healed and wanting others to know and see our pain. i feel that way a lot and it stops me from moving forward.
the things you say and the way the Lord speaks to you is amazing. please please don't stop sharing. i love you.

Paige Baker said...

You are so incredible.
I know I touched on this with you the other night but I would like you to know that I really do thank God for you. I really do publicly praise God for a friend who not only lifts me up and walks away but lifts me up and points me back to the One who's always there. Written down in the prayer books of those who are strangers to you, is "praise God for how He uses Lauren".
The past couple years have held a lot of spiritual schizophrenia for me. (you know, the "He loves me, He loves me not" shit) Though I always knew the truth and love of God, the people I am closest with heard me say many times on different occasions "Sometimes I think I don't even want God." And I can say that often times, similarly to what you said and why, I didn't. I didn't want to be healed, or set free, but I spent all my time thinking about it.
Of course, not to say that there aren't still plenty of struggles I face, but the main difference is, that I really do want God now. Now I am drawing near to Him and He is drawing near to me. I can feel it now.

This also made me think of one of my favorite ever quotes and how sometimes the painful surgeries are the only things that will truly alleviate the pain.
"The cure for pain, is in the pain, so that's where you'll find me. Until again, I forget, and again You remind me."

Katie Markey said...

I love you Lauren! So proud to have you as my room mate

Michelle Markey said...

This is beautifully written, Lauren. I'm so glad Katie shared this with me. You have so many amazing talents! Thank you for sharing!

J said...

"The greatest lesson I have learned through pain is the character of the surgeon.

I have learned that it is his nature to HEAL. His heart to LOVE. His way to COMFORT. His purpose to make us WHOLE.

The second greatest lesson I have learned through pain is to trust what He says over what I feel or know."


I think what you said here is beautiful. I'm trying more and more to turn over my troubles to God. And it really helps!

I did it over the summer a few times, just cried and cried and said everything that was scaring me or on my mind (as if He didn't already know) and I felt a million times better.

Amy @ AGirlCalledBeloved said...

This is an amazing post! Thank you for writing it. I know that the Lord wanted me to hear this today! =)

frankenstein said...

this is lovely lauren. incredibly validating and encouraging. thank you for affirming thruths that can sometimes be so easy to forget or directly deny. i love you and your gorgeous heart and mind.

Anonymous said...

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficent for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Chist's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." -2corinthians9&10

thanks for sharing lauren! we should actually hang out sometime! -theresa

suzy said...

you write so beautifully. i've been working through a lot of the same things in my own life lately--it's heavy stuff, but so so good to work through.

Joy said...

Beautiful, beautiful piece. This made so much SENSE -- I had never thought about faith through this lens before! Thank you many times over for writing such a thought-provoking (and faith-provoking) piece. I'm forwarding the link to family members right now!


Michelle (michabella) said...

This is beautiful and literally touched my heart. My pain is a break up from someone whom I thought was the man God had put in my life to marry. (he still could be but right now the break up is best). But like you said... I too am proof. The circumstances most defintley haven't changed but MY HEART DEF HAS. And that it the beauty in this breakup. I find it crazy that I can find something beautiful about a heart wrenching break up. But I have learned to completely trust God. He is so good. I love this journey he has me on.

You are such a blessing. <333

Shell said...

What a wonderful message of HOPE!

Unknown said...

It's ridiculous how beautifully and miraculously and lovingly our Surgeon works sometimes. I've been clinically depressed for nearly a year now and it had been getting better with a few hiccups on random days. This past week it's been gradually taking me deeper and deeper into the depths of misery and last night was near rock-bottom. I needed these truths about HIS healing, about HIS love and HIS care. Thank you sister.


kelly summers said...

i still love this.
i love that no matter what, it still applies. winter, summer, mountains, valleys. whether i'm experiencing this pain, have experienced it or know that it will come on soon enough, this is incredibly helpful and it reminds me to rely on Him.

i love you!

seekipsmile said...

thank you for this.

i too am different. God is changing me. And while it seriously freaks me out to trust HIM, it's getting a little easier to run to Him.

i'm convinced that God is good, because He has proven Himself to be. i believe it.

Nduku Wambua said...

I came across your name so by accident, through the post you wrote for Relevant magazine this week...and I decided to follow you. I am also 23, a Christian and Kenyan; and although we are continents apart we go through the same things. I am grateful to you that you have chosen to write as a way to help others because that's what your posts do. I've been going through a hard time these past few months and didn't know how I could trust God fully to heal my pain. Thank you very much and God bless you and lift you up to greater heights.

Anonymous said...

These words are so powerful... thank you for sharing your wisdom and your pains to help others.

Jillian said...

Mostly, this post was written two days after one of the worst days of my life. And mostly, I wish I had read it back then, because they are exactly what I needed to hear. Even all this time later, these words are so, so comforting and bring such truth, and are exactly what I need.

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