To watch/listen to this post:
In between her violent gasps for air, as she sobbed uncontrollably, her dark eyes narrowed in on mine and she screams out, “I feel like I’m drowning” at the top of her lungs. It wasn’t a cry for help but served more like an exclamation point to the grief and pain she’d try to rewrite in her mind. No matter how she tried to wrap her mind around this pain, this loss, there was no way around it. Not a single one. And so she screamed.
Already on the floor, she collapsed further into herself and sobbed bitterly. I hugged her through my own tears and stifled breath and kissed her tear-stained and blotchy face a million times over. That’s a mother’s way—to hug and kiss until the pain subsides until the boo-boo stops bleeding.
Not all pain and boo-boos can be kissed away.
In her 24 years, I’d learned a lot about being a mother, about being a friend—one and the same at this stage of her life. It was about showing up, being intentional, listening to the words spoken and unspoken alike, meeting needs, and sharing whatever advice or wisdom I still had loitering in the corners of my mind. Her eyes searched mine for answers. My mind searched for them and found none.
How do you find purpose in the midst of pain?
We want an explanation, a reason—anything to help us cope with what’s been lost. And although we know the truth, which is that sometimes there are no explanations, we clamor, claw, and scratch for one at all costs. We rack our minds, ask friends, and sometimes we even turn to God.
We want answers that satisfy our questions, nothing less. Anything less, somehow leaves us feeling more hopeless. And what we need right– now more than ever– is hope.
We’re often met with clichés and scripture and Pinterest-worthy sayings that although sound good—true even—leave us pining for practical application. “Just tell me how I am supposed to do this and I’ll do it,” we plead. And our heart-wrenching cries for help are nearly always met with eyes that fall downcast.
Silence hung in the air that day with my daughter, warm and intoxicating—lulling us into a pain-induced coma, where everything feels as if it is moving in slow motion. I rest my head against hers, listening to her breath return to its new normal. Moments turned to hours and all I could manage to say after a long period of silence was, “God is in the air bubbles.”
When we feel like we’re drowning, God is in the air bubbles—those teeny-tiny air bubbles that drift heavenward—showing us which way is up when the pain is too deep to see the light.
She had lost her unborn baby girl at 23 weeks. She had lost her dream of a lifetime. The pain was suffocating; it threatened to devour her—not just that day—but each and every day since. Despite popular opinion, some pain does not get better with time and some pain does not actually heal.
Healing implies that wholeness has been restored.
Wholeness. What a word; a beautiful word. Perhaps it’s a trait we strive for most of our lives because even without pain, loss, and suffering, we know that on our own, we are incomplete and so we search. Pain appears to send us on a detour of our quest, skewing our vision and beliefs about what we thought we knew.
We knew where we were going.
We knew what to expect from God.
Pain reveals that we didn’t really know either of these things. Pain causes us to question and seek—and often times leaves us temporarily worse for the wear. However, our questioning and seeking sometimes drop us onto a path we never knew existed and there, we find purpose. The nature of pain changes—the piercing, searing sting lessens with time and we learn to live with our pain. Our wounds and battle scars remain and serve as reminders of what was lost, but also what was gained and help direct our next step.
Dismissing pain or avoiding it is not healthy.
It’s OK that our pain still causes sleepless nights and fits of tears.
It’s OK that sometimes we don’t feel we can move on (We never have to “move on”; we do have to learn how to live “with”).
It’s OK that we’re mad and disappointed in God.
It’s OK that we’ve temporarily lost ourselves.
We get to feel what we feel. We don’t have to rush through grief to satisfy those around us. We don’t have to rush to the place where we move from lament to transformation.
No, my girl, just breathe. For this moment—breathe. Don’t be more than you currently are. Don’t move faster than your heart needs to move. Sit for a while. You are on your own journey and it will take as long as you need it to take.
Steven Furtick, Pastor at Elevation Church once said, “It’s what you do with your pain that determines what it becomes.”
Our pain talks to us. It tells us all kinds of things—some true, some lies.
“God took my baby away from me because I had sex outside of marriage.” LIE
“God could have intervened, but He didn’t because I’m not good enough.” LIE
“God isn’t really in control or else He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen.” LIE
“God is punishing me.” LIE
“I’m going to always feel like this.” LIE
Maybe the dialogue you have with yourself differs, but we all tell ourselves something about our pain. We all want something or someone to blame and so we make something up, something that sounds feasible, of course—and then we entertain the crap out of those lies. We feed them, we create sequels and trilogies.
We’re so quick to invest in the lies we tell ourselves and equally quick to dismiss truth. But maybe, just maybe, we don’t know the truth about our pain. Perhaps our pain limits our beliefs—keeping us right where Satan wants us—limited, strapped to pain and lies—drowning.
Can pain really be used for good?
Will my pain result in something bigger than my wildest dreams?
Am I short-sighting my pain, thinking it only impacts me?
Is there something I don’t know, don’t see?
Steven Furtick, in that same message, said, “God doesn’t want to punish you, He wants to position you.”
Is He a God that desires to humiliate, to keep us in a state of being lost, broken, and without hope? No, my girl, no! Although it might be too early in your journey towards healing/acceptance—whatever that road may look like for you, know with certainty that your pain has all the potential in the world to position you in the exact right and perfect place.
Your pain + your position = purpose.
What position might Christ desire for you?
What purpose might your pain serve?
Determine the purpose of your pain—and there is one, Beloved. You don’t have to like it. And honestly, on the front side of this equation, it will not seem as good as what you lost.
Can you accept that the purpose of your pain might not have anything to do with you? It might not be something you see value in this side of heaven. Whatever, the purpose of your pain, it will be unique to you. There is no exact formula to follow. It is strictly between you and God—no one else, yet. It’s what keeps us afloat when we feel like we’re drowning.
When we position ourselves at the foot of the cross, we surrender our pain, our loss, our ideas, our dreams and essentially say,
“ Lord, I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t. It’s too much. I’m laying it all down—all of it—at Your feet. On my knees, I ask You to use what was meant for evil for Your good. I plead with You that I would know Your care and tender touch in the midst of this darkness. I grasp mercilessly for Your Word and bask in all its glory. I pray, Lord, that these words would be the words of my heart. Change me, mold me from within. I don’t know your purpose in this pain, Lord God, but I do know You have one. Help me to trust You. Help me to trust You. A million times over, I beg that You help me to trust You because right now, it’s hard and I’m not sure I really do. It’s dark in this place of drowning. I do see You in the teeny-tiny air bubbles through the hugs of friends and family, though the words of encouragement in text and in song, and in the hard questions. There are glimpses of You, even here, Lord. Please, like Peter, continue to stretch Your hand toward me, when I feel I’m sinking– when my faith feels small.”