“We live in a broken world, but because God is with us we can have joy, even when things are hard.”
God is not here to take away our pain, but to fill it up with His presence. We are reminded throughout the Old and New Testaments that the presence of the Holy One is our firm foundation when our world is shaken (Psalm 16:8).
The two simple words with me encompass more weight than we can fathom. The disciples were in serious trouble one evening as they battled against the stormy sea. I’m sure they were afraid, but their fear turned into terror when they saw a figure walking toward them on the water. “But Jesus spoke to them at once. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’” (Matthew 14:27). The very presence of the Holy One may not change our circumstances, but it can change the way we view them.
To think that the all-powerful God of the universe is always with me changes the way I view everything. We live in a broken world, but because God is with us we can have joy, even when things are hard. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything” (2 Corinthians 6:10). We have everything we need when God is with us.
Weeping can be a beautiful form of worship when we humble ourselves before the Holy One and bow our pain before His feet. When I do this, I don’t presume that God is going to change my painful situation, but I am reminded that He is with me each step of the way, and I find hope in the midst of the storm.
The Beauty of Brokenness
There is an old Jewish proverb that says, “What soap is to the body, tears are for the soul.” God uses tears to cleanse the spiritual and emotional part of us. When I first began to grieve, my tears were frozen and I didn’t know how to thaw them out. I finally gave myself permission to grieve when I understood the beauty of brokenness and realized that my tears are important to God.
Emotional tears are different from the tears produced by physical irritants. Scientists have discovered that there is a protein released from the body through emotional tears that actually helps reduce the person’s stress response. In other words, our heavenly Father created us so that having a good, long cry can produce a physiological response that can make us feel better. When we stop fighting and embrace our brokenness, crying out to the only One who can heal us, we can finally experience the nearness of our Beloved (Psalm 34:18).
Pain comes in all colors. Mine came through abandonment and abuse. Elaine’s came through what felt like abandonment disguised as an army assignment:
I HAAAAAAAAAAATE THIS!!! My husband is deployed, the dog is sick, the kids are a mess, and I’m worried about my sick mother and angry at my father who isn’t taking responsibility for her. I feel a tight knot in my throat and stomach; I can’t eat or sleep. And on top of everything, a stomach bug decided to grace our home this week and left us all heaving over the toilet. At midnight on Christmas Eve the hot water pipe burst under the sink. I finally collapsed onto my bed, sobbing. I just need someone to hold me while I cry. Why, God, why???? And then I heard a soft whisper: “I love you, Elaine.”
In that moment I knew that my tears mattered. In the midst of my utter desperation, the Lord shouted into my pain … and the atmosphere changed. God’s very presence came into my sanctuary, and in the silence He whispered to my heart, “Elaine, I rejoice over you! Do you not see? Do you not understand? I have loved you with an everlasting love, and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted” (Isaiah 62:5, 12; Jeremiah 31:3, NIV).
He has lifted me from the dust on the floor to His shining face and I respond, “For as long as it takes, beautiful Jesus. Thank You.”
Sorrow is an emotion that needs to be expressed. Sometimes we grieve with hope, softly crying on our knees before the Lord, believing that He will rescue us. At other times we grieve without hope, thinking that we are far too broken for Him to fix. In the midst of my grief, there were times when I was in so much pain that I found myself stomping up and down our staircase, begging God to heal me. I had to use a washcloth to wipe my tears at times because a tissue was insufficient. Sometimes all I could do was scream into a pillow. There were also a few gut-wrenching moments when I found myself on the floor of our bathroom with my face in the toilet. On many days I felt like I would never get to the end of my grief.