January 27, 2023
God's Not Afraid of My Pain
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"O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you." Psalm 38:9 (ESV)
She'd been dancing in the kitchen before she disappeared. She'd twirled and tangoed to the music as I scrubbed the breakfast dishes, but when her feet slipped, her peal of giggles gave way to a squall of sobs. And with a sad shriek, the pirouetting princess stumbled out of the room.
I dropped the dishrag in my hand and headed upstairs. It wasn't the first time I'd gone looking for our resident preschooler. And it wouldn't be the last.
This precious girl had come to live with my family while hers was in crisis. Though she’d found refuge under our roof, my arms weren't the comfort she sought in times of anguish. So she often chose isolation over consolation.
I found her tucked in a corner of her bedroom, head buried in her hands, shoulders drooping low.
I settled on the floor across from her and spoke quietly: "I'm right here." I extended my arms in an unspoken invitation to hold her, but she turned away with an angry-eyed harrumph.
It was tempting to be frustrated, but I also recognized myself in her prickly posture and guarded heart. After all, little girls aren't the only ones who withdraw when life hurts.
I, too, have sat alone in my sadness and detached in my disappointment. More often than not, when my heart is aching, I'm prone to run from God instead of toward Him.
But lately, I'm discovering a different way. When I'm tempted to run and hide, I turn to the psalms in Scripture and let the words of the psalmists serve as my gentle guide. And as I follow their example, I'm learning the ache in my heart need not keep me from the comfort of God.
What the psalmists knew - and what I'm finding, too - is that God's invitation to draw near (James 4:8) isn't limited to epic moments of worship or poignant times of praise. His summons stands even when we can't.
The vulnerable expression of lament in Psalm 38:9 reminds me I don’t need to disguise my despair or misery - "O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you." I can give God more than my worship; I can bring Him my wounds as well.
Sometimes turning to God in our pain looks like vulnerable scribbles in our journal. Other times, it looks like naming our disappointment or voicing the hard questions that spill from sadness. And once in a while it looks like tears falling fast without words as we trust the Holy Spirit to say what we can't articulate. (Romans 8:26)
No matter how we bring our lament to God, when we dare to follow in the steps of the grievers and believers before us, we meet hope in the midst of our hurting.
And best of all, pain doesn't get the last word. Rather than carving a canyon between God's heart and ours, our ache paves a path right into His presence.
I was still sitting on the floor when the dancing girl lifted her head and narrowed the space between us with a quiet crawl.
"I'm sad and I'm mad," she muttered.
"I know," I murmured as she climbed into my lap and buried her head in my arms. I held her close and hoped my presence spoke louder than my words: "It's OK to cry. I'm not afraid of your pain."
Dear Jesus, thanks for being attentive to my cries and present in my pain. Forgive me for all the times I've distanced myself from You when life hurts. Help me trust You with my tears and draw near to You in my sorrow. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
James 4:8a, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." (ESV)
Psalm 5:1, "Bend Your ear to me and listen to my words, O Eternal One; hear the deep cry of my heart." (VOICE)
To whom do you usually turn when life hurts? What's one way you can seek God in your pain? Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2023 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.