Tag Archives: Pain

Mountains And Molehills

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”  If only I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase in childhood…

Circumstance occurs.  Perception magnifies such & such to grandiose proportions, causing verbose lament of its significance to ensue.  Exacerbated parent/teacher/adult/any-reasonably-sound-human-being within earshot gets their fill of said ranting and responds with the classic wisdom: “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”

This propensity is not merely my own shortcoming.  It’s common to us all, old as the Garden itself.  How effortlessly we overlook obvious good through laser-focus on the often small-by-comparison lacking bits of life.  A vast expanse of Paradise with everything free for the taking except that one little caveat that would ultimately spur Eve’s downfall.  She possessed more than a mountain; she’d been made ruler over Created Earth with Adam.  Yet of all the beauty – SINLESS beauty – surrounding, her eyes flocked upon that one fruit from that one tree.  And we’ve been following her lead ever since.

Research has repeatedly shown it takes ten positive statements to compensate for one negative.  Spend an evening showered in complements and a single negative utterance drowns them all in memory.

Annie F. Downs recently made the case for “keeping the painful parts of your life small to live a full life”.  Now she’s not advocating we play Pollyanna.  After all, in the sage words of T. Swift, “band-aids don’t fix bullet holes”.  Silver linings won’t stop a severed artery from bleeding out.  No, pain demands attention.  Survival, in fact, depends upon pain for, without it, we would befall harm quickly and at great cost.  Pain provides necessary parameters for living when it comes to safety as those affected by CIPA (aka the genetic inability to feel pain) will tell you.  Though you may not feel the heat of the flame, you still bear its resulting burns and at far greater extent than if you had felt the singe instantaneously.

Pain has purpose.

THAT SAID – it plays a part but NOT the whole.  A life’s summation must be more than its collective suffering.  There must be cause for celebration somewhere.  While creation remains under a curse, STILL it cries out in worship declaring the glory of God.  If desert sands and parched ground, if ashen hillsides and flooded banks can sound forth praise, then certainly so can I in the middle of hard things.  Even the psalmist sang, “I would have lost hope had I not believed I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”

God Himself declared to Moses, a man He spoke to as a friend, “See today I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.  Choose life that you may live, you and your children.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)   Both exist in our reality: life AND death, blessing AND cursing, good AND bad, dark AND light.  Just as God instructed Moses, so He gives to us: CHOICE.  Choose life that you may live.  Neither are exclusive descriptors of existence.  Where there is life, death also dwells.  ‘Tis the way of all fallen flesh.  But where there is death, life’s remnant can also be found.  Decay renders soil more fertile.  Ash alkalizes acidity.  It’s central to nature, both the law of entropy AND the reality that life will out.

Does this mean Annie’s statement of keeping pain small is unfounded?  Not at all.  Pain is and always will be present while this fallen earth remains.  Pain because of a curse, a curse resulting from a choice, a choice that existed SO THAT LOVE COULD BE POSSIBLE.  Love without choice is not love at all and that comes with great risk, at great cost.

Pain is real.  It demands attention.

But not all of it.  Even darkest nights reveal the shining through of stars.

We magnify what matters.  We measure by what we make much of.   Query the Psalms, ancient accounts of suffering and song.  They face pain head-on, crying out for justice, for mercy.  They do not deny life’s sorrows but rather take its full weight before the listening ear of God.  Even the most heart-wrenching psalms bear an element of praise, a remnant of hope.  Where pain is great, praise is made greater.  Where trials rage, thanksgiving rings through and true.  The determinant is choice.

With both options ever before mankind of life and death, what realm will we choose to dwell in?  Think of your own story.  Do you measure it in increments of suffering or joy, of failure or accomplishment, and by what lens do you define the two?  When you share your experiences, do you belabor the woes or delight in even mundane moments with gratitude?  As you look over your life thus far, what draws your attention, your affection, your energy?

Let’s labor together to take one step towards triumph, towards celebrating even the smallest of wins and not letting pain hold the final verdict on our life.  When all seems ashes, take heart.  May we be people who face pain headlong with tenacious thanksgiving on our tongue.  May we be known more for what we celebrate than the wounds we lament.  It takes courage to choose gratitude in what seems a graveyard; it feels an awful risk.  But it is one worth taking.  In the context of mountains and molehills, we determine which elements of life hold sway over our hearts.  May looming structures in our lives be marked by grace and gratitude, by praise resolute with hope, rather than majoring in the minors and magnifying pain over joy.

We all endure the rain.  Floods may rise and fall.  But if its hope you’re looking for, Charlie Chaplain said it best: “You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”

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Heard

It’s been quite a year, this 2015.

A hard one.

Hardest that’s come in my 33 years.

Funny looking back on seasons once deemed difficult, now paling by comparison.  Perhaps that’s an encouragement though – those valleys deep seeming shallow in rear view, after their hidden lessons were learned and the Author’s crafting, carrying, through it all made evident.  Perhaps those rifts felt foreboding then as these canyon-sized cracks do now.  Perhaps it’s just reflection’s rose-colored glasses.

Nevertheless.

It’s been a year of dark storms and brilliant silver linings, a year of fears actualized and unknown strength rising.  But let’s be honest – even that “strength” is simply weakness brought center stage, leading to greater dependence on the only One mighty.  If in weakness one is strong, then I’m Miss Olympia.

When walking sorrow’s road, there comes a point when our mortal core cannot carry gratitude’s banner any further, when the silver linings don’t make up for the massive clouds within, when you’re simply, honestly NOT OK and too weary to convince yourself otherwise.  ‘Tis the way of all fallen flesh.  Whether abandonment of provision, people, or plans, human hope only goes so far.

We cannot save ourselves.

Another exhausted day gave way to sleepless night.  As the last of my frayed rope’s end gave way, the guttural cries stored deep from this awful year came pouring out, silent cries giving way to sobs.  My life’s foundational belief in Yahweh, the One True God, the Ever-Faithful, Ever-Listening, Ever-Sovereign, Perfect Author of life itself, met its crux.  All the silver-linings and gratitude-fueled-hope could not sustain the weight crushing within.  God, I “know” You hear me but I NEED to know You’re with me, FOR me, RIGHT NOW in this make it or I’ll break moment.  Would my Cornerstone prove sure?

It all poured out with torrential force.  Anger.  Sorrow.  Fear.  Every awful emotion birthed from loss.  Nothing polished.  Raw.  Laid out ugly before Holiness in the dark of night.

Here, He showed Himself near.

A middle-of-the-night message sent from a friend woken, prompted to pray for me, for my precious children.  Slowly I heard His whispers.  I’m here.

Whispered nudges to a spent soul, Open your Bible app.  A book of 66 books.  Out of all of that, where do I even start?!  Just open it.

Psalm 116

I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy.  Because He has turned His ear to me, I will call out to Him as long as I live.  The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, save me!”  

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.  The Lord guards the inexperienced; I was helpless, and He saved me.  Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  For You, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.  I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.  I believed, even when I said, “I am severely afflicted.”  In my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”  

How can I repay the Lord for all the good He has done for me?  I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of Yahweh.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.  The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.  Lord, I am indeed Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your female servant.  You have loosened my bonds.  I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of Yahweh.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house—within you, Jerusalem.  Hallelujah!  

He heard me.

I read the psalm over and again, awed how the phrases contained spoke directly to my cries.  It had just turned midnight.  I opened the app again.  A new day’s passage appeared.

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  You will have suffering in this world.  Be courageous!  I have conquered the world.  John 16:33

Comfort like rolling tides swept over as the One who holds all things together held me together by His Word, living and active.  Colossians.  SheReadsTruth.com was studying the book currently.  Colossians.  Well since it’s after midnight maybe the next day’s post will be up.  Opening it read:

So if you have been raised with the Messiah, see what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on what is above, not what is on the earth.  Colossians 3:1-2

Peace like lightening broke through my dark.  He heard me.  God was speaking to me – broken, battered, ugly-raw me, saving me from what I couldn’t save myself.  And His Words spoke Grace.  Grace greater than sin, ALL sin, mine, those against me and against those I love.  Grace, My child.

And with it – Hope.

It’s now another day into this year, this year that can’t fade to memory soon enough.  Perhaps one day those rose-colored glasses will find similar reflections on the valley of now.  Much terrain remains to be traveled as my surrounding circumstances haven’t changed.  But Ann Voskamp summed it best, “Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole.  Because this is the thing.  Hope is what holds a breaking heart together.  Hope in a Big God is what frees us from big fears.  Hope is a thing with keys…”

At the blackest bottom of my hole, God gently placed mine.  Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  Beneath storm clouds still raging, He renewed truth’s song in me.

Great is His faithfulness.

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When It All Falls Down

What to do when your world needs fixing…

When everything teeters on the brink of crumbling, how do you cope?

You cry out to God, pray earnestly for His strong arm to mend the broken, to rescue before collapse. You search Scriptures, search your heart, search earnestly for something, anything, for remedy.

But what do you do when after all this – the tears, the prayers, the repentance – it all falls anyways. Prayers for repair seemingly return with rubble.

I’ve pondered this much of late: how to reconcile cries for fixing when the answer comes back in further breaking.

Was the Lord averse to my cries? Had my pleas fallen on calloused ears?

While emotions raged and circumstances spun, I sensed His gentle Spirit whisper truth to my weary soul:

I am not a handyman.

Patch this. Mend that. Indeed my prayers for fixing desired repair work on existing structures, keeping the status quo minus the cracks. “Here’s MY plan for fixing, Lord. Be a good handyman and get the job done.”

Oh the love of our patient God. As I wrestled with this new realization of my heart’s desires, He whispered again transforming truth.

You are clay and I, the Potter.

The Potter. Master craftsman. Clay always transforms into its destined design within the molding palm of His hands. Should cracks develop or walls weaken, He does not simply patch nor mend. The Potter presses the entire piece to the ground, flattening to scratch and building again from the bottom up. For the vessel to hold true, it must be made new. For the fractured, fixing requires breaking.

With this newfound perspective, I realized my cries for fixing had in fact been answered! Not by mere patchwork that would eventually give way to greater rupture but by the loving leveling of the Master Potter’s Hands. Not out of distain or frustration but clear vision of the full potential trapped within the my clay, potential that could only be realized by His molding touch.

He allowed all to fall so it could be built up in Him, strong and sure.

Take heart, weary one. You are not forsaken. When it all falls down, rest your battered bones in the palm of your Potter. His desire exceeds mere repair of fractured places. Know you are ever in His sight as the apple of His eye. He has a masterpiece in mind!

Therein lies the beauty of being broken.

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Blindsided

20140626-232500.jpgLife can jolt you sometimes. Jolt you so hard from your bearings that the world around seems spinning and you can barely catch your breath.

Perhaps its a diagnosis. A phone call. A freak accident. An unexpected complication. A conversation. A change of someone’s heart. A death.

Sometimes your journey from mountain high to valley low feels more like being blindsided with mactruck force that sends you tumbling with ferocious speed to the depths below. When the wind gets unalterablly knocked from you, when well-laid plans become nothing more than memories, when your life’s trajectory shifts forever by circumstances beyond your control, what do you do? How do you cope? How do you even breathe?

There is pain. There is heartache. At times even despair. My path has shifted unchangably multiple times throughout my life by things beyond my control. Family changes. Job changes. Deaths and diagnoses. Hopes dashed and dreams deferred. I’ve seen such shifts occur in the lives of loved ones and those known at a distance. The struggle is real! Questions, cries, tears when they can’t be held back any longer. What do we do with this?!

Breathe.

Cry with honesty and reverence to the God who is WITH YOU moment by moment of this awful, painful, terrifying mess you never asked for and prayed would never happen.

Breathe.

Beloved, even now – in the confusion, in the fear, in the pain – He holds you with love in His eyes and unfailing strength in His tender grip with desires for your good saturating His heart. God is the ultimate Author and sole Redeemer of things allowed through His sovreign hand. He is writing your story to stretch far wider and richer than anything you could have dreamed, drawing you to lean fully on Him because after all, He is the only One with strength enough to carry us through. He bestows significance on our stories.

Breathe.

I’ve seen God turn mourning into joy.
I’ve seen Him bring beauty, hope and blessing from barrenness.
I’ve seen God knit together the fractured, the demolished, the destitute into creations more beautiful and strong than anything they could have been if they had remained whole.
I’ve seen Him take diagnoses cloaked with despair and make them stories of strength and impact, taking small life plans and stretching one’s touch round the globe.
I’ve seen His love resurrect dead hearts.
I’ve seen His grace make formidable the weak.
I’ve seen His faithfulness mend the unmendable.
I’ve seen God breathe new life where all hope was lost.
I’ve seen Him turn blindsiding tragedies into awe-inspiring victories, tragectories, powerful testimonies.

Over and again since the beginning of time, God has been finding the lost things, the broken things, the dead things with a fervent, seeking love that names them precious, significant, His.

I know because I’ve not merely observed; I have tasted and seen firsthand that the Lord in fact is good.

Hang on, weary one. You are not forsaken. You are not forgotten. You are being held this very moment by the One who holds all things together. Breathe. Cry. And trust what is True: He who began a GOOD work in you WILL BE FAITHFUL to complete it.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:14

“As for you, you meant evil against me but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:20

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, ” It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3

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