A Journey in Suffering

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No words can aptly describe your heart being torn apart. The pain, the sobbing, the gasping for air. Grieving the loss of something never to be regained. Lost dreams. Lost confidence. And a lost me —drowning in the deluge of betrayal, anguish, and woundedness without a seeming breath of hope.” (personal journal entry 2021)

Perpetual sadness and the lure of bitterness hold their own death, doesn’t it? As time progressed, I realized that I couldn’t live this way. But how do you heal when the wounding continues? 

Time has an element in mending, but as I’ve studied trauma, time can’t be the only component. God provides many crucial lessons along this journey of suffering. 

  • The usefulness of tears

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6). In the parable of the sower, Jesus designates seed as the Word of God (Luke 8:11). Sometimes, the best way to water this seed is with tears. Even during Jesus’ time on earth, “He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). If our Lord learned from the agony of suffering, it is inevitable that we will follow the same pathway (Hebrews 5:8).

I’ve often desired to know His Word deeper. But like birthing a baby or losing a parent, understanding only comes with experience. Since perseverance and endurance are so close to the heart of God, He grants that suffering be a necessary element to understanding truth. “It is good for me that I was afflicted that I may learn of Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). 

  • The significance of prayer

Nineteenth-century Hartley Coleridge said we should “Pray in the darkness if there be no light.” Many of my prayers felt “dark” since they involved more tears than words. How comforting to remember that the Spirit prays for us when we don’t know how (Romans 8:26). 

Reading the Psalms, I found friends I’d never met before. These guys had actual trials and deadly persecutions. Their prayers were often exactly how I felt, and the whetstone of their agony helped sharpen my requests. Their written torment put utterance to my own pain and assured me that God was listening despite how beastly I sounded to myself. 

  • The value of community

I can’t overestimate the precious care that supportive family and friends extended to me. How thankful I am that God gathered them around me before the wounding. Since we are never prepared for soul-piercing, it is imperative to have a support group in place before tragedy strikes. I wouldn’t have been able to seek help if forced to do so amid the worst. Vulnerability with trusted friends, especially in intercessor groups, provided listening ears and strong arms to carry me to the Father. 

  • The ability to release 

I’ve never been one to carry a grudge, but this time, forgiveness hasn’t come quickly. As my prayer group can testify, I’m still in the beginning stage of this process. 

To date, I’ve made two baby steps. Greek wording in John 20:23 prompted the first step. “If you forgive (aphiēmi – “to send away”) the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven (aphiēmi).” I discovered that forgiveness isn’t an emotional feeling but a “sending away” and a “letting go.” After a while, I was well ready for the offenses to stop repeating themselves in my brain. I wanted to send them away and refused to continue mulling over them. 

My second step was to go to the heavenly courtroom to delineate each offense before “God, the judge of all,” “Who judges righteously” (Hebrews 12:23; Jeremiah 11:20). Once I presented my arguments and submitted my material evidence to Him, the Holy Judge asked that I leave each attestation before Him. I admit that on one particular item, I objected, stating I might need to add more detail. He assured me that He saw all and knew all, even the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Further affidavits did not need my statements. After insistence on His part and hesitance on mine, I finally stopped discussing specifics, including the new incidents that occur regularly. This, too, is a “sending away.”

  • The excellence of praise

Once I stopped stewing over excruciating details, I realized the need to fill my headspace with something positive. Worship seemed counterintuitive while I still bore wounding, but then I heard Bill Johnson of Bethel Church speak on the sacrifice of praise. Worship can be fragranced by grief, fear, disappointment, or betrayal and still be precious to God. My friend Jane Bromley calls Him “the God of opposites.”

Praising from the portal of pain gives me direction in worship. Has someone drenched me in deceit? I praise Him that He is “the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16) and no deception is “found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) for “The sum of His Word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). Hallelujah, “it is impossible for Him to lie” (Hebrews 4:18).

Am I perfumed with loss? I go quickly to the God Who shall wipe away every tear. In Him, “there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” because He makes all things new (Revelation 21:4-5). I praise Him for swallowing up death for all time (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54) and being a Gracious God Who cares about my tears (Isaiah 30:19). Even amid distress and pain, I praise Him as the God Who turns mourning to joy and sorrow into comfort (Jeremiah 31:13).

Am I fragranced with fear of the futureI worship the reliable God Who will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5-6) and will keep my feet from stumbling (Psalm 56:13). He can see ahead and even now is training my hands for war and my fingers for battle. Praise Him that He is the Stronghold I can run into and be saved (Psalm 144:1-2). 

Let’s use our negative emotions to perfume (and direct) our praise. He is not only the God Who treasures our tears (Psalm 56:8); He also finds pleasure in the aroma of our worship, even when it’s fragranced with pain (Ezekiel 20:41).