So, for starters, you bet I came out of the womb just aching to be sitting here at the age 23 writing about who God is in pain and suffering.
Jokes. No one wants to be sitting at a computer typing about how they feel they’ve gained a P.H.D in pain and suffering, nor do people say their favorite things are taking long walks through the valley of the shadow of death.
Yet, in this life, unless you are Patrick Star off of a SpongeBob and literally living under a rock- on the bottom of the sea- there is the reality that you’re going to stub your toe at some point in life. Yes, that alone is worth being pastored through, that crap hurts.
Also, side note: if you are walking through hell right now, keep walking. I would beg to say that when you’re crying out for your Red Sea to parted, there’s a 99.9999% chance you are already walking through it. Yeah walking through it, it’s terrifying, I’ve heard that historians say the river was probably a mile high in the sky…if that thing crashes on you…well dang.
And that’s what walking through pain feels like, but you know, I think the Israelites weren’t as helter-skelter as most believe -they kept walking and that takes courage.
I mean how do you think Moses felt when The Lord told him to “let His people go” and he shows up to the Red Sea thinking well how in the heck are we going to make it now with the enemy in hot pursuit behind? —at the edge of your greatest disappointment is the threshold of your greatest breakthrough and praise The Lord, for us, it is finished.
It was a surreal feeling, and not the good kind. I just remember staring at myself through a mirror while staying at a hotel in San Francisco holding an anxiety/anti-depression pill in my hand. My heart felt shut down within me as my mind was racing with disappointment and defeat. Since I was a little girl one of my greatest fears was having to take medicine for my mind- a weird fear for a little girl, I know. But when you’ve experienced seeing your aunt on speed out of her mind, your cousin struggling with mental illness, and you, yourself, know the reality of fear better than most people all by the age of 12 years old..it makes sense.
If you have or are struggling with anxiety and depression. I am so sorry. I know your pain. I know what it is like to wake up where your heart physically hurts and your chest constantly feels like 20 pounds of bricks are resting on you. Those nights where your neck feels tight, there’s emptiness in your stomach and loneliness feels chronic no matter how vulnerable you get with someone.
In this season, in mirrors and reflections I would just stare at my eyes trying to find myself. I’ve had to quit my job that I loved because the distress eventually led to my body fighting chronic fatigue syndrome. I have even had to have friends drive my car in moments because I was filled with so much anxiety. Being someone that is so used to working at high levels of capacity, this season hit me with all kinds of questions and confusion. I could spend two hours with God and feel like I’m talking to a brick wall, which caused even more pain, especially because I am at a discipleship school where I thought I was supposed to be experiencing more of God—we’ll get to that.
But in this, my heart is here to say no matter how deep, how messy, there is hope, there is healing and there is freedom.
Wholeness is not a pipe-dream, and that’s coming from me who interrogated God just a few months ago that it was.
Pain and suffering is real, but I’m finding the reality everyday that pain isn’t so scary and love is stronger, love is bigger, and love truly always wins.
You know it’s not just faith to believe for freedom, healing, restoration, wholeness, redemption- it’s a reality. The cross isn’t something we hope happened. It happened. Jesus is alive and by His stripes we truly are healed. Simple truth, but when it hits the heart it changes everything. I pray it hits mine more everyday.
Pain is an opportunity for the person of Jesus and the cross to become more real. In most cases, to catalyze change and maturity.
Photos can’t be developed without exposing light on them in the dark room. If you allow Him, in the darkest seasons, the light of God is actually just piercing through you, developing you, making you whole, transforming you.The dark is truly not dark to Him and it’s good to remember that the valley of the shadow of death is only just a shadow.
Because fear would lie to you that He left you, that He led you or others wrong, that He is allowing this to teach you something, that He won’t come through for you. Or it would even twist you further to have you make up your own theologies, throw you into your coping defense mechanisms that it built around you as a child of self-denial, envy, perfectionism, false security, criticalness, self-protection, suppressing neediness, fear of failure, deceit, gluttony all in the name of protecting you when it was and is actually building walls around you against love. Fear would do this until it has you relying on your own belief systems, having given up on experiencing Him completely or come into agreement that your sin is just how He made you and you know, fear is real, but it is untrustworthy.
“Detachment from this fear is the great secret of peace,” and a lot times we say, but I feel this way and I agree with you, you do feel that way and some things you really can’t truth yourself out of. But you can wrestle your way out of it by ways of submission. There’s much to learn from Jacob. Because the reality is that all truths aren’t created equal, “it is precept upon precept, line upon line” (Isaiah 28:10). Some truths are weightier than others, so it’s true you may feel like you are a sinner but the greater truth is that you are a saint. It’s true that you may feel like God has abandoned you but the greater truth is that He will never leave you or forsake you. Jesus asked me one day while walking by a lake and wrestling with Him about this, He simply mentioned, “Micaela, which truth do you want to submit to? What you submit to will be your reality but you have a choice.” I think The Creator of the universe is on to something—not meaning to be pretentious, honestly I’m just proud of myself that I even read a book that mention this one time—but I mean even quantum physics says through the law of attraction that the act of what reality you observe creates it and proves the truth that “a man is as He thinks He is.” (Proverbs 23:7)
You’re breakthrough is only as far away as your mind shift change.
And Jesus is never ever is the cause of any of your pain. Why would God Himself take your pain, sickness, tragedy and the sin of your life on Himself and then put it to death on a cross, rise three days later breaking the bonds of death itself off your life so that literally nothing can separate you from Him, to then allow pain or disease in your life or leave you when you feel you need Him most?
Fear is real, but it is illogical against the love of God.
The theology of this could be wrestled and I’m not saying I’m dead right. I’m writing on a topic that is the same as If I was going to try and eat a horse. There’s a lot that could be discussed. But I will state what I know of His nature and I believe there are many factors to pain and suffering, including the altogether brokenness of the world, the enemy, your own decisions of sin, or those who decided to sin against you, so on, but that He is never one. (*check out the podcast by a fantastic pastor in Portland named John Mark Comer that I mention at the end of this if you’re wrestling with this in anyway- it’s phenomenal.)
The sufficiency of Christ covers all things, He is the healer. He is the pursuer, He loved us first, He won’t stop loving us. He died on the cross so that you could know Him, know healing, know Love in the middle of your breakdown, in the middle your greatest loss, so that heaven could invade your soul in the middle of what feels like hell. He is wildly jealous for us, for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. (Song of Solomon 8:6). You are dead to the law of sin and death and alive in Christ. (Romans 8:2) He took your place, He died as you. He is the propitiation of our sin (1 John 2:2), meaning He has covered our past, present and future with His blood. His wholeness is your wholeness, His purity your purity, His righteousness your righteousness, continued. These aren’t just words, this is a reality and the joy of our salvation is in stepping more and more into this everyday.
Two years ago I was in a worship session with tears welling up in my eyes and trying to open up my heart to Jesus by asking the classic question, “Jesus why can’t I trust that you won’t fail me? I feel like all that has happened is pain and failure.” And gently, His response changed me forever. “Micaela I’m not the world, the world has failed you. Fear has failed you. I haven’t failed you, I won’t fail you, I love you too much, I am not the world.”
God is never the one you are mad or disappointed in, you’re mad at the skewed reality that pain and fear has made Him out to be. He is always trustworthy, always in love with you, always for you, always good.
If there is one thing I know deeply, it’s that the more real you are with Him the more real He becomes to you. From the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality ( *highly recommended read btw) Peter Scazzero states that “in fact the true spiritual life is not an escape from reality but an absolute commitment to it.” I want to break the lie that feelings are not trustworthy, being led by our feelings is untrustworthy but listening to and feeling our emotions no matter how discombobulated they may be ushers us into connection with The Truth. If you keep telling yourself to not trust your feelings you’re honestly just shutting down your heart until you’ve beat yourself in the name of religion into a walking robot that knows a whole bunch of knowledge about “the truth” but has hardly experienced Him. He wants all of your heart, He wants your ugly, He wants your fears, He wants your mess. One of my favorite verses in the bible -“Jesus wept” John 11:35. Love is the only thing that transforms and love can only touch the pain and fears of our hearts by going there in brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.
Though this takes courage because pain, shame, fear and disappointment have a thing with causing a lot of locked doors around one’s heart and then lies to you that it’s safer to not let anyone in and that you don’t have the key.
I sat in the corner of my garage the other week staring ahead of me feeling so locked within myself and so much frustration in my chest it literally burned. I felt the pain of feeling distant from Him when I felt I needed Him most burn hot in my chest and tears started welling up in my eyes. And with a clench jaw I asked Him, “Jesus why. In pain or when people are racked by fear does it feel like you just leave? You’re presence becomes hard to feel, your voice like a thing of the past, why Jesus why?!” And in a moment I felt His face forehead to forehead with mine and I could see His eyes red and puffy like He had been weeping for hours, the wounds in His chest open bleeding out and I felt Him whisper close to me in agony, “Micaela I hate it. I hate it. I hate what pain and fear does to those I love. I hate it. I hate how it’s made you feel, I won’t leave you. I hate it.” And I wept with Jesus for about an hour.
“And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of His resurrection working in me. I will be one with Him in His sufferings and I will be one with Him in His death.” (Philippians 3:10)
A lot of times pain makes us see life through a magnifying glass like there is no way out of it’s maze, though when you zoom out, in actuality the dark night of the soul could honestly be referred to, as John of the Cross says, the “dark night of loving fire” to set us free. Where Jesus purges our souls from all that separates us from Him and infuses His love in us through ways we could not have even imagined.
Restoring the ruins, breaking every weapon formed against, bringing all things together for good, creating beauty out of ashes, life where there was death, hope where there was hopelessness, penetrating His reckless love into the depths of us where we once had 20 pound locked barriers built up around our hearts to the point that we didn’t even know the code to break into it ourselves -wether it was to keep things out or to just hold ourselves together because fear and shame had lied and clogged the pipes in our hearts so dang much.
He is relentless to see us whole, fully His. He is the restorer of our souls. His love is reckless and if we allow Him in, in seasons of pain, it can change absolutely everything…If we allow Him in.
It’s a beautiful mystery that is worth resting in and speaking of mystery, leave room for it.
Your diagnosis is not the final word, your circumstance is not the final word, your past is not the final word. The cross is the final word and this too shall pass.
The truth is, He is in love with us. I burn for this, I burn for love. Don’t let pain or fear derail you.
There’s so much more healing to go and there is no rush, He is good at His job. But even here fighting fear, I am becoming whole and I couldn’t be more thankful for the journey.
I’m maturing in God, have been invited to places of intimacy with God I’ve continually cried out for and am discovering the beauty of stepping out of years of bondage and into union with Christ. The beauty of it all with Him, surmounts the pain. It’s here I’m learning that it’s dependency and gratitude in Him that is the bedrock of wholeness.
I had a dream two weeks ago with a hand reaching out to me with the word Emmanuel tattooed on the arm and that is who He is. Emmanuel, God with us. God for us.
Psalm 62 “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”
Let Him fully in, His love wins.
“I’ve made up my mind until the darkness disappears and the dawn has fully come in spite of shadows and fears I will go to the mountaintop with you- the mountain of suffering love and the hill of burning incense. Yes, I will be your bride.” Song of Solomon 4:6
Tips to overcome if you feel you are in this season:
- Get real with God, like brutally honest. Allow yourself to feel every emotion and sit in it with Him.
- Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray your socks off and when they’re off keep praying. Don’t stop praying.
- Get in The Word and declare scripture out loud over yourself daily. Prophesy life, freedom and breakthrough into every area you need to see a mountain move.
- Get great friends around you to share your heart with and remind you of who you are. Be vulnerable, ask for prayer often.
- Get a mentor and be in a covering of a local church and pastor.
- I’m a huge advocate for Therapy, find a really good Christian Therapist.
- Potentially try going to a doc and check the physical things like hormones and such, you never know, those things could be throwing you for a loop.
Fantastic podcasts to explore:
My Name is Hope - John Mark Comer
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality - Peter Scazzero