Recently, many friends have approached me with hearts full of sadness. So this is my response to them. It is not a letter of advice because I do not think I am qualified to give that, but merely a personal narrative.
There have been times in my life when I have woken up everyday to the dreaded feeling. That feeling in your heart, like an anchor is strapped to your chest. It has many causes: an awful job, relationship troubles, or just plain old human pride. It also comes from wanting what I am not ready to receive, grasping for what does not belong to me, or thinking I am entitled to what I am not… and I have lived long enough to know that suffering comes almost exclusively from within (almost).
What do I do on those days? The days that I wake up with my heart in a knot? The days that I feel a stone hanging from a string from my chest? I fight it of course. I fight with myself, I fight with God, I fight with people who annoy me… I just fight. That is my reaction. I am a fighter. In the good ways and in the bad ways.
Why? Because suffering sucks. No one likes to suffer, me the least of all. I’m the one who prays to God to “just rip off the band- aid” and get lessons I need to learn over with. Now, I do have a pretty good pain tolerance… just ask the dentist who thought he numbed me when he yanked two teeth out of my mouth (he didn’t). Or the poor nursing student who, when drawing blood, went through my vein. Twice. I, of course, did not whimper. (Mostly because I felt bad for her) However, there is a catch: my pain tolerance only lasts for short periods of time. This is why I was a sprinter in track, and why I was a rower. I can do anything… for about seven minutes. Then we have problems.
The problem with heart pain is, it doesn’t just go away. Not without making us suffer just a bit longer than we’re comfortable with. In my experience, pain does not go away until I accept it. I have to lean into it, I have to be grateful for it, but most of all I have to discover the lesson that God is trying to teach me. Only then will I have grown.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
There is always a reason. There is always a reason why we are being stretched, sometimes tortured. That restlessness which lives within us is not something to be fought but must be harnessed. My mother always told us that my Abuela had a saying, that we must control our minds before our minds control us. I find this to be true with my heart as well. It must be kept under control, despite well meaning friends imploring, “You can’t help what you feel!” “You are feeling that way for a reason, don’t fight it!” I have said these things as well, and to a point they are true, but we must harness our emotions as well as our imaginations, and we must look at suffering for what it is. It is a training for the obstacles we have yet to overcome, it is an alarm clock alerting us to what is wrong in our lives, and it is the tug of our Savior, drawing us close so that we may rest in him alone.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Peter 5:9-10 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Pain is a kindly, hopeful thing, a certain proof of life, a clear assurance that all is not yet over, that there is still a chance. But if your heart has no pain — well, that may betoken health, as you suppose: but are you certain that it does not mean that your soul is dead? ~ A.J. Gossip
God bless you, my brothers and sisters in Christ! Fight the good fight, and fight well.