This is the first in a series I’ll be writing on being scared, overwhelmed and brokenhearted. If it resonates with you, let me know. If not, still let me know. I want this to be a place that is helpful, hopeful and encouraging.
The place I will start is when I was overcome and overwhelmed with pain. It was physical pain. At least that is what I thought it was. About a year before, I was in a fairly minor car accident. It was morning rush hour on a two lane road in Miami in the 1980’s. There was lots of traffic stopping and starting at traffic lights.
I was in this one small car accident
The car in front of me stopped. I jammed on my brakes (I was only going about 30 mph at most) and came to a stop. Suddenly, I felt a thump and my head bounced back and forth a few times as I was hit from behind and pushed into the car in front of me. Wow! That hurt.
The damage to my car was minimal, but my head was throbbing! After a trip to the ER (no work that day!) I had a soft collar for my neck and medication to help my symptoms which were relieved in a few weeks.
But over the course of the next year, I gradually started having more and more jaw pain. Driving was becoming more and more miserable.
I received the name of a local orthodontist. He worked me up for TMJ and said I had some, but it wasn’t at the level of severity as the pain I was experiencing. His recommendation was for me to work my way down a list of specific doctors, therapists and even a chiropractor and see which ones worked for me. He said that for different people, a different combination worked. Some wouldn’t work at all and I didn’t need to waste my time on them.
Over the next few months, I tried different types of therapy and treatments to relieve my pain. The things that helped were relaxation techniques to some degree, physical therapy helped quite a bit as my muscles started to get stretched and I learned exercises to relax the muscles. In the end, along with those things, the main thing that helped was the Christian counseling I received. It changed my outlook on some events from my childhood and helped me change the way I related to people moving forward.
Counseling taught me that I was ignoring a lot of emotional pain that was screaming to be noticed
I discovered that there was a lot of emotional pain I was (not) dealing with. It had finally caught up with me. I grew up in an era (1950’s) and in a particular culture where we were supposed to gut it out and push through whatever was bothering us. Tears were seen as a sign of weakness. This was particularly true when it came to children or teen-agers who were struggling when I was one. But stoicism is not actually a Christian or Biblical way of dealing with life.
It just makes it more comfortable for the people around you who don’t want to be involved in your life…or don’t want to hear about your pain. And there are plenty in the Christian community like that. You can see their eyes glaze over when you honestly answer their question, “How are you today?” They are the ones who didn’t really want to know more than a sound byte answer. They will rarely be your close friend.
Fortunately, since that time, I have had many friends who weren’t like that. Before that time, I wanted people to prove themselves first. It is a hard burden to put on new friendships. Learning to live in a way that is more vulnerable with people puts you in a position where you can be hurt more easily, but you can also make close friendships more easily too! You aren’t forcing people to prove themselves before you let down your walls.Learning to live in a way that is more vulnerable with people puts you in a position where you can be hurt more easily, but you can also make close friendships more easily too! You aren't forcing people to prove themselves before you let… Click To Tweet
During this period of my life, I learned the truth of Matthew 11:28-30 ESV:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus wanted to carry these burdens that I was intent on carrying all by myself. There were reasons I had gotten into that mentality from my childhood. That didn’t mean they were right or good! First I needed to understand that I was experiencing pain or burdens, not pretend that I wasn’t hurting. Then, I needed to offload the burdens I was carrying to Jesus. I also needed to stop trying to carry burdens alone that were meant to be shared appropriately with Jesus and maybe others, particularly a spouse or even close friends.Jesus wanted to carry these burdens that I was intent on carrying all by myself. There were reasons I had gotten into that mentality from my childhood. That didn't mean it was right! Click To Tweet
- Some were burdens of unforgiveness that I was struggling to let go of. I kept having to run into some of the people that had hurt us. I was not allowed to say anything. It was very painful! This was a burden for Jesus. Only He could carry my unforgiveness and remove that burden fully.
- I was carrying burdens of trying to please people that weren’t mine to carry. If I took on His yoke, I would have been carrying a much lighter burden. Over the next year or two, GOD worked on me to learn which burdens were mine to carry and which weren’t. It helped me in the next many years of ministry and life. My responsibility is to faithful to do what GOD requires of me. I am not responsible for the reactions of others…assuming I am not abrasive in my relationships.
- I was carrying the burden of self-protection. As a regular person going through life, it is too big burden to carry. But if you are a pastor’s wife who needs to relate to the people in your church in a kind way, no matter how they behave toward you, it is a very heavy load to carry! I didn’t want to get hurt. The reality is that it is going to happen. I can’t prevent it. That is why I need my Burden-bearer.
Then, the orthodontist did his work by giving me a bite plate to get my bite worked on. Each month, when he shaved a little off, my neck would go into spasms that were extremely painful! At times, I was incapacitated for a few days. It was truly miserable…but eventually, my bite was sorted out.
As time went on, the pain was mostly behind me. Now I had the tools to manage the physical pain with my neck exercises. And I had tools to manage much of the emotional and spiritual pain as I learned to be more open with people and not try to carry my burdens all alone and internally.
Then, guess what happened? GOD moved us to another city in another state! But that is another story for another day!
How has pain moved you toward healing? Are you continuing to make the necessary steps toward healing that your pain pushed you toward?
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together
in the pains of childbirth until now.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons,
the redemption of our bodies.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed
to the image of his Son,
in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:22-29 ESV