I recently had a short conversation with some people who knew me really well and who I’ve just recently seen again after being apart for months. The conversation was about how we have all changed so much (for the better) since last seeing each other, and in my friend’s response to this, he said, “…things become different when you are able to stand through the pain in the midst of your circumstances.” (paraphrased)
Yes, please. I want to be able to say that in my circumstances, when I’m hurting, when I want to curl up in bed and never be seen again, that I have stood in that season, through the crashing waves of emotions, and not been defeated.
A few weeks ago I was with some friends at the ocean, and within 10 minutes of being in the water my lungs were giving out from the cold and the exertion my body was using to stay up in the waves. I got to a point I could not longer stand and it was pretty difficult to breathe, but I didn’t want to get out just yet either since we had all really been looking forward to some beach time. As the waves would come, one of my friends would grab me and hold me up. We spent over an hour in that water, and he held me up the whole time. At one point, I decided to go on my own back to shore. Bad idea. The closer inland, the stronger the waves, and I was doing somersaults into the water, not even getting my feet planted before the next wave hit.
This is how my life feels at times, and definitely the seasons I’ve been going through recently. Trying to stand up on my own in the hurt and hard times has exhausted me to the point that I no longer could, and every time I would be about to give up, someone would come along and hold me up. This doesn’t mean that I was automatically okay. I still had to catch my breath, hold on to that person (those people), and keep my head above the water. But with their legs on the ground, I had something sturdy to be my stronghold when the waves did hit. I wasn’t defeated and I wasn’t alone. Also true that when I thought I could get back to my normal life (the shore) on my own, I’d end up pummeled by the waves again.
We’re not meant to walk through pain on our own. We’re not strong enough. None of us are.
Walking through your process with people helps you to stand through the pain of your circumstance. Pain will try its hardest to keep you down when you are hurting; life will do its best to keep you up when you are dying; friends will hold your hand and walk you through your process; and YOU will have the strength to stand when you feel powerless.
Loss is relevant to everybody. Every one of us has experienced loss in some form. Whether it be the laying off of a job, the death of a friend, the death of a family member, dropped communication with someone we love, losing valuable possessions, and on and on. We all experience loss differently. Based on what is important to us in our lives, that determines the level of hurt and the depth of pain that comes with our loss.
The reality. No one will understand exactly what you are dealing with, but a lot of people will try and sympathize based on what they have lost that is close to the depth you are experiencing.
The problem with this.. is that people try and relate, thinking that it sympathizes at the same level, when they don’t ever really understand the pain that you are feeling.
A lot of times people remember a past experience that they have dealt with, and even though they know that it was painful, they either 1) don’t want to bring up the pain that they felt, or 2) think that because they got through it, so will you. This sometimes creates the emotions in them that you are already fine and therefore don’t need the attention and help that you really do need. Or heaven help us, they give you the advice of things that helped them, without acknowledging the fact that your situation is completely different (and for the love of all things good, everyone’s emotions and feelings are all the same, RIGHT??!?!…) As a result of this, we have broken people who never get true healing and starve for affection in all the wrong places just to fill a hole that was never properly filled.
This. isn’t. everyone. I’m not stating that I know every human being and that this world is awful. Not what I’m saying. From my personal experience and spending time with hurting humans, this is the reaction people give a lot of times when someone is dealing with loss.
Hurting people are not broken people. Why do we always think that they are?! Get out of your bubble, take off your tainted lenses, and come to every person believing that they are great, loving, fun people who just happen to be in a difficult place. We all go through them, and we all need people walking through them with us.
So what can you do?
Learn to serve people. Turn off part of your brain for 5 minutes (trust me, you can do it, I believe in you) as you talk to people who are in pain, and listen to their story without already creating the situation in your own mind. Hurting people need to be heard. Let them know you are listening. And no, you don’t need to tell them your life story afterwards to make them feel like they’re not alone. This often times makes them feel like you are saying your life has been just as hard and trust me, that’s not what they need.
Give them your time and affection and show them that you care before they even ask for it, and learn how to love people specifically to how they receive it. (It never hurts to ask)
Most importantly, just be wise.
We all have tragedies in our lives. It’s what we do in the face of them that defines who we are and where our heart truly lies. If we are not truly okay inside, the real feelings of our heart will come out when we are faced with disappointment.
Pain makes people snap. The things that we never thought we would do, are now a product of our lives because of a hurt we had to deal with. Who do you look up to that became great in the face of pain? And how are they handling it two/three/four years from that time? We have many reactions to tragedies in our lives. Let me talk about 3 of them:
1, people do what they “know” is right, and sometimes never actually deal with the problem. These are the people we usually look up to for how they are handling the situation. When in reality, they listen to what their mind has been told, but not what their heart is actually saying. They will go to church, read their bible, say all of the things that they “know” they should be feeling (i.e. I’m not mad at God, God is good, I can do this, I know that person would never intentionally hurt me, it’s not their fault, it’s not God’s fault, etc.) These things are good. But if you never allow yourself to express the deep, dark, hurting emotions, how will you ever process through them?
2, people run to something that will numb the pain. We all know these people, and at times throughout our lives, we are these people. Numbing the pain can happen in so many different ways. Now let me tell you something.. if you think you are not this person because you don’t run to alcohol or drugs, look again. Running could look like distracting yourself by being with friends, going to concerts or movies, engulfing yourself in work or school, and even in some cases, spending all your time with God. Let me explain this. Running is anything that takes you away from dealing with the problem. Though spending time with God is amazing, if you are doing it out of “what you think is right” but aren’t using that time with Him to actually figure out what it is you need for the season, you’re running away. Don’t get me wrong, you are running to the greatest thing you could possibly run to, but if you don’t deal with the situation in that time, you will eventually end up blaming or being disappointed in God because the situation has happened or isn’t changing.
3, people face it. They take the time, they pause their lives, and they search out help from people or leaders they trust. This is the hardest in some senses because it means that now everything is on hold, people feel broken, people feel like a mess. But this is honestly the easiest solution in the long run. You will go deep, grow fast, be challenged, and break free. Everyday is a new challenge, a new day for growth, for receiving love, and for accepting where you are. By facing your pain, you will be able to deal with your situation, and walk out in freedom.
Sudden tragedies change our lives, and sometimes, everything about who we are. What are you going to do about the situation you are in? Will you choose God? Will you choose you? Or will you dive deep into a process that is life-transforming, even if that means facing the pain head on.
Your choice. Always your choice. Don’t let it be your downfall.