There is a level of heartache that goes beyond the normal highs and lows of life.
It cannot be quantified. Words don’t do it justice. It keeps you up at night, doggedly chasing you, taxing your mental reserves all day long. Even if you’re not an emotional person, tears threaten to fly down your face without a moment’s notice. It weighs heavy on your mind, soul, and body. The embers do not quickly cool.
This kind of pain is often hidden away, raw and unseen in our comfort-driven America.
When in the thick of it, there is not enough time in the day or energy in your heart to reach out explain yourself to people. The people who get it, will get it. And the people who don’t? They may never get it, and it may not be their fault.
Perhaps some willfully believe the worst, but many people just don’t know what to do with deep, soul-level heartache. Most people, (even unfortunately in the church), are pretty awful at dealing with deep pain. We don’t know what to say or do. Sometimes we fear we’ll make it worse, or we don’t want to bother the person. Sometimes life gets messy and we forget until it feels like it’s too late.
We (generic “we”) don’t really know what to do with it.
Platitudes are spoken (“you’ll get through this”; “this too shall pass”). Unhelpful, unbiblical things are sometimes spoken (“God must think you’re strong; He never gives you more than you can handle.”– these are totally not in the Bible!!).
Or sometimes (which can be even more painful than platitudes), nothing at all is spoken, and the wounded are left to fight through their darkest days, alone. They may even have to be the ones to comfort the shocked people around them who don’t know what to do with such great sorrow.
SO WHAT DO WE DO WHEN *WE* ARE THE ONE WITH THE ACHING HEART?
#1: SCRIPTURE TELLS US TO BE THANKFUL FOR THE HARD DAYS IN OUR LIVES
- “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” ~James 1:2-4
- “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” ~1 Peter 4:12-13
- “In this you rejoice… you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” ~1 Peter 1:6-7
- We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ~Romans 5:2-5
And so we should fight for this, through our pain: to rejoice, to be glad, to count it as JOY. God tells us how we can do this: because we know that it’s producing endurance and perseverance and steadfastness in our lives, because it is refining and perfecting our faith in God, and because it gives us the ability to share in what Christ suffered.
#2: CONTROL YOUR WORDS
When the wounds are still stinging, It is so tempting to want to spew everything we are feeling to anyone who is nearby (especially for us extroverts!)… especially if there are gossips coming to get “tasty morsels.”
Sadly, gossips circle like vultures where there is the smell of pain and hurt.
As women of God, especially in times of difficulty, we have to remember the things God says about our words. This is where the rubber meets the road! This is when it counts!
- “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” Psalm 34:13
- Moses told the people of Israel, as they prepared to cross the Red Sea (remember– they were in an impossibly frightening situation, between a treacherous army & the sea!): “Fear not, stand firm… The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” ~Exodus 14:13-14
- “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” ~Psalm 4:4-5 (There is a right way to be angry… silently pondering things, trusting the Lord… and a wrong way to be angry.)
- Remember Jesus: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.” ~Isaiah 53:7
- “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” (Click to read all of this wonderful passage: 1 Peter 2:19-23)
Our words matter. Even in the hardest times. Yes, I think there is a place for our friends to come around us and provide a buffer and discerningly leave some words for the wind and give us gentle redirection or reproof if we need it.
At the same time, the Spirit of God can give the self-control you need, even in the most difficult moments. Be careful, when you are hurting, not to slander another human being made in God’s image, no matter how hurtful or uncaring you feel that they’ve been. Offer your attitude, and your words, up to God in faith. Jesus sees the circumstances surrounding our offerings. The offering may look paltry, but when given from a place of hardship, He sees it as “much.” Offer your words to God as the widow did with her mite.
#3: WE ARE TOLD TO SEEK PEACE AND FORGIVE:
- “Seek peace and pursue it.” ~Psalm 34:14
- “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” ~Romans 12:18
- “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3) [***NOTE: though it is tempting to “let ourselves go” when we are hurting, the way we act when we are tempted *NOT* to be “eager” for unity is when this verse really comes into play. It is easy to be “unified” when there is no hurt, disappointment, or disagreement. The moment of your pain is where this verse can be intentionally carried out in a way that counts.***]
- “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:31-32
The Lord’s example in prayer tells us to pray for forgiveness according to the manner that we forgive others… so in our deepest pain, we must push away the tendency to wall ourselves in, to grow more bitter, or to be stoic and unforgiving. There’s absolutely a place for boundaries and for discernment, but we must forgive– stop sitting in the place of judgment and extend a gracious pardon to– those who have hurt or offended us (in the same way we NEED forgiveness when we are the offending party).
#4: TAKE NOTE OF WHAT IS HAPPENING, AND WHO IS ALONGSIDE YOU
The things we do in the dark times… in the hard places… while we are in deep pain… they reveal who we truly are.
Times of sorrow highlight who our friends are. I recently found that, through trials, I was more focused on the people who *weren’t* there than the people who *were,* and it robbed me of joy. Notice the people who are there; be grateful for them. It may not be who you expected, but it’s who God has put there in that moment.
# 5: REMEMBER THAT IN CHRIST, YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
The hardest times teach us who God really is. The people around us may or may not ever see the truth about everything, but our Lord always sees. He sees all things rightly, fully in the light, without shadows. He judges every situation justly.
And when we are an absolute mess, He looks on us with gracious eyes of love.
The heartache comes… but as believers, we do not go through it alone. We have a High Priest at the ready who sees every tear and hears every cry— even the groans we can not speak because our hearts are so weary and our bodies, so tired. He stands, sits, pleads our case even when we are wrong , groans, and cries out to the Father with us, and does so with loving affection and with a heart for grace and mercy, truth and justice.
The beauty of times of sorrow is that they cause us to depend on Jesus all the more deeply. He is the ONLY firm foundation, the only Friend who will not disappoint, the only One who sees every single detail rightly.
You have been my help… My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. ~Psalm 63
When Mary Magdalene was at Jesus’ grave, weeping, deep in sorrow, He appeared to her. With joy, she clung to Him. In the darkest days, when your heart aches, the most natural thing you can do is run to, reach out for, and cling to Jesus.