Faith, Hearing God, Revealing Jesus, surrender

Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain

JessicaSufferingQuote

Ugly tears coursed down my cheeks. Why? How could this have happened? The betrayal hit me like a gut punch. I wanted to scream it all away, or at the very least tear someone apart with my bare fingernails. But even that wouldn’t make it better, wouldn’t erase what I was going through. I felt so alone.

The hurt felt worse than a knife. It felt like a massive, crushing weight obliterating every inch of who I’d been. And I was left alone to pick up the pieces, not even sure I could.

Sometimes, the hardships we go through seem unimaginable: A difficult, completely unfair illness cutting us down in the prime of our life. Debilitating financial or legal issues that seem to have no way out. Crushing betrayal or other emotional or physical violation. It’s the opposite of how we think life should go.

In the midst of my pain, I was on my own. I knew no one who’d been through what I was experiencing. There was no one I could confide in who’d truly understand. Talking to a counselor brought temporary relief but no real solutions. Blocking it out and staying as busy as possible only worked for so long.

Then came Jesus. In the darkness, in the depths of my pain, I realized: He knew. I didn’t even have to open my mouth to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal.

Not only that, but He’d been there, too.

In the depths of my #pain, I realized: #Jesus knew. I didn’t have to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal. He'd been there, too. Click To Tweet

He’d experienced the worst pain, the deepest betrayal, the hardest suffering—none of it deserved, and all of it something He could stop if only He caved to temptation. Yet our Savior chose to bear the cup of sacrifice and endure. And it hurt Him—so very, very badly.

But for some reason, I’d never before understood this. Growing up, I’d been taught Jesus died on the cross, but His suffering seemed abstract. In paintings depicting the crucifixion, the holes from the nails had a bit of blood, and Jesus was frowning beneath His crown of thorns, but it was all rather contained—a PG version of what He’d really been through. Then His suffering was over and, whoosh! Our Savior was dressed in head-to-toe white with a glowing golden halo, smiling like He’d never been gasping for His last breath or sobbing from the pain of being sold for thirty pieces of silver by one of His twelve best friends.

But when I encountered Jesus in my sorrow, it wasn’t the Sunday school, family-friendly version kneeling beside me as I collapsed before Him in a darkened room with my prayer of surrender. It was the scarred-up Jesus, the One who remembered the ragged bloodstained holes from where they’d driven the nails in, who didn’t wince as they beat Him but cried out in agony, who didn’t just quietly and stoically accept that Judas let Him down but ached over the treachery.

This Jesus understood. And when I realized that, and I allowed him to meet me in my suffering, I was no longer alone.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared suffering when we walk with Jesus, which makes all the difference.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared #suffering when we walk with #Jesus, which makes all the difference. Click To Tweet

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (ESV).” These aren’t just words on a page. There is true rest, a peace, in knowing Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden.

There is true rest, a #peace, in knowing #Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden. Click To Tweet

But not only is there rest, but also hope. While Jesus did suffer, His suffering ended. He overcame. He triumphed. As He told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Many years have passed since my tough time, and sometimes it feels like it didn’t happen to me at all, but rather to a character in a book I read. I still go through hard times, when I want to throw myself on the bed and cry, when I want to give up and surrender.

Yet now I have a secret weapon: I know God is with me in the center of my pain. And that, like nothing else, helps move me towards healing.

Prayer

Praying When Hate or Trials Get in the Way

 

KristenPrayerQuote2-

Hate is a word I never use unless I’m talking about cancer.

It’s a festering, growing batch of cells that leads to sickness and destruction in one’s body. When it attacks someone you love, everything within you rages and aches.

I detest the joy cancer steals, and the life it tries to take. I abhor its effect on families and the financial stress it creates. I especially hate the physical pain it causes and how it can trigger a wavering faith.

I wish it didn’t exist.

But it does. So my hatred is an ill use of my time. And, therefore, I avert my focus from disdain back to what I love— Jesus and my family. Yes, my little sister has cancer, but I choose to concentrate on my adoration of Him and her.

Watching someone I love endure pain erodes my heart a little each day, leaving me on the verge of tears constantly. But as I concentrate on Jesus, the Healer, and my love for my sister, I can rebuild some of that erosion.Watching someone I love endure pain erodes my heart, but as I concentrate on Jesus, the Healer, I can rebuild some of that erosion. Click To Tweet

Although to be frank, praying in the midst of heartache, no matter what kind, is challenging. I’ve counseled many to remember that God is good and loving and kind. But what good is there in this disease? Or maybe you’re asking, “What good is there in losing a loved one?” Or a marriage? Or a career?

My limited, human viewpoint has a hard time seeing through the cloud of grief. Sure, I notice droplets of joy along the way— a new medicine working, a successful surgery, a clearheaded afternoon— but the hardships remain.

So what can we do when we’re feeble and frail? KristenPrayerQuote1

We remember the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. Romans 8:26-27 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

These are heavy verses, so let’s break them down.

When we’re physically tired and spiritually drained, when we have no idea what to ask God for, or when anger confuses our judgment, we can count on the Holy Spirit for help. Click To TweetWhen we’re physically tired and spiritually drained, when we have no idea what to ask God for, or when anger confuses our judgment, we can count on the Holy Spirit for help. He’s our Advocate (John 14:26 & 15:26), who speaks to God on our behalf, and since the Holy Spirit is God living in us, who understands all things, He knows exactly how to pray for our situation. He will and can only plead for us according to the will of God. And since God is fully good and perfect, His will is also good for all.

I’ve sobbed to God with misplaced words and disjointed thoughts, finally crying out, “God, You know! You know!” He understands “what we ought to pray for”, and immediately does.

If you’re up against trials, a confusing path, or a hatred you can’t get past, drop to your knees and ask the Holy Spirit to “groan” on your behalf. Jesus knows what you and your loved ones need. Trust Him to get you through your battle.

Let’s talk about this! When has it been hard for you to pray? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and encourage each other.When has it been hard for you to pray? Share your thoughts, so we can learn from and encourage each other. Click To Tweet And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Hardships and Trials

God’s Favor–The Gift of Presence

If God’s favor meant great health, I’d missed it. If it meant worldly success, happiness, prestige and an expanding ministry, God had abandoned me. But if favor—if grace—meant a vivid revelation of my Father’s heart and a deepening intimacy with Him, then even as I lay in bed sick and fatigued, I rested squarely in my Daddy’s hands. Right where He wanted me to be.

Image of a light with quote from blog post

It just took me a while to see it, cherish it. In fact, it wasn’t until my body started to recover that I saw the precious gift God had given all those mornings months before.

Sometimes it takes a crisis—an illness, a tragedy, having one’s life tilted upside down—to grab hold of what really matters. In 2011, after a lifetime of great health and athleticism, after nearly two decades of walking closely with Jesus and two years of surrendering to His call, colitis knocked me flat. Shifted my identity and for a while, left me grasping for answers.

If I could no longer run, who was I?

If I couldn’t push through this physical obstacle, was I still a woman of strength? An overcomer?

Why would God allow this? I’d been serving Him, writing for Him, speaking for Him, but now I was reduced to a tired, thin woman who often couldn’t make it to the bathroom on time let alone serve outside the home. Wasn’t I more effective when well?

I was failing. I wasn’t using the gifts God had given me. I wasn’t tending to my family as I felt called to do. I hadn’t touched my keyboard in months and wasn’t sure I ever would again.

I wasn’t any good for the body of Christ. I wasn’t any good for my family.

This was an incredibly painful time. A period of refining and stripping. A year I will always remember. The time when, as I read my Bible each morning and I clung to God’s Word lovingly preserved through the ages, He drew me to Himself and held me close to His heart. Those moments between us, when all the rest of the world faded from view, are precious beyond what I can express.

… there’s nothing so precious, nothing that can soothe the heart, quite like being held by the One who knows and loves you most.

There’s nothing so precious, nothing that can soothe the heart, quite like being held by the One who knows and loves you most.

verse image of James 1:2 with a sunrise in the backgroundPerhaps this is, in part, what James meant when he said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds …” (James 1:2, NIV). Though in context, he’s referring to the joy of knowing God has a purpose in our pain. But this points to an even bigger truth–God loves us always. In our times of health and pain.

I’ve known joy. Not the momentary elation our world teaches us to chase after, but the deep, unyielding, persevering joy of knowing God, truly knowing Him, and being known by Him.

If favor is found in what I can do or the wealth I attain, if it’s found in prestige and accolades, I failed. And I’ll gladly fail again–to gain something much more enduring and fulfilling.

Time with Christ. To be held and to know His hands are strong and firm and ever-present, that’s joy. And that’s the greatest gift Christ died to give us—unhindered access to Himself. He’s always there, always reaching, always loving. But sometimes He needs to help us see that, rest in that. Sometimes that help comes through pain; a pain with the sweetest of dividends.

Let’s talk about this! When has God turned a difficult time into an enduring blessing? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

When life hits hard and we feel used up, it’s easy to think we’re somehow less valuable or perhaps overlooked by God. But our value is immutable, and we can live out our purpose in every season, if we choose. Join us for our next Wholly Loved Conference on January 20th hosted by Beautiful Savior in LaVista, NE to learn how to discover and live out your purpose.

Then, join us in February for our Bold and Brave Conference, hosted by St. Paul’s United Methodist in Papillion. You can check out all our conference dates and register HERE.

Sign up for our free quarterly newsletter to stay up to date on all our ministry happenings and receive great content straight to your inbox. You can do that HERE.