Saturday, February 18, 2017

Grieving #2: Pain is Pain


I have been told so many times that I have the gift of compassion.

This very well might be true, but I do not dwell on what my gifts are - I just continue to do what is front of me, and praise the LORD for the energy and desire to do whatever these things are that I do.

I do know that I understand what it is like to have chronic pain because I have struggled with it.   I can completely understand when I interact with a person who struggles with physical pain, especially chronic pain. 

Likewise, I can say that I do understand what it is like to have personal agonies because I have dealt with agonies.  I know how isolating it is.  I know how it feels when no one acknowledges you "because you might cry", and I know how it feels when someone does acknowledge my pain, and yes, I might cry - or not.

When well meaning people tend to point out that they feel I have the gift of compassion and it is important for them to do this, while they show me no compassion - I begin to think, "why don't you just begin to show some kind of care for others?" 

(I suppose I sometimes think in kind of a sassy way.  Thankfully, I do not say these things out loud.)

A reason some people may not take time to show compassion:  Caring about other people does "cost" something.  Mostly it costs time.  It takes time to stop and realize someone is hurting.  It takes time to listen to what they have to say.  It takes time to console them.  It takes time to remember them in prayer.

In the past a sweet friend pored out her great sadnesses to me every time we spoke. I always listened, grieved with her, cried with her, prayed with her.  She new all about my agonies so one day I called her to see if we could meet.  I asked her if she wouldn't mind if I cried out to God about my agonies with her.  I said I just needed a friend to sit with me.  I wanted to give my beloved husband a break from always being the one with whom I cried.

Unfortunately, she took no time in answering, but immediately said succinctly, "no".  I was crushed.

Compassion costs.  We should be willing even though there is a cost.

I understand it is a scary thing to reach out in compassion.  That person might cry.  That person who needs compassion might have something that is scary to talk about, scary to think about, something scary that might happen to you sometime.  But you should reach out with compassion anyway.  That person who is suffering in anguish for whatever reason needs a kind word, a smile, or prayer.  They aren't waiting for that certain someone who has "the gift of compassion" to stop by.  Those people with the gift of compassion are too busy to reach everyone!

You know, I can be bad at reaching out to others also - even with just a smile which I withhold.  I did this one day when I was being particularly grumpy on the inside, and I have regretted it ever since. 

I can say the wrong thing to people who are struggling. I mess up all the time, and I understand all about suffering!  No matter what, these mess-ups don't stop me. I live in the LORD's strength and He keeps me going. He is always there with me so I can try again and again the next times.

When I have had well meaning people say things which shock me concerning my agonies, I can give them great grace, because I mess up too.

I have had well meaning people say to me, 

"I am so glad that isn't happening to me".

"I could never handle this if it were happening to me."

"You should get a hobby." (okay, a real mean person said this one to me)

"We use your situation as a teaching example in our family."

"God chose you because you can handle it."

"You should just forget about [your people] and move on."

"At least [your people] aren't dead."

At other times there are friends who speak with me and they express their own sufferings.  They go on and on as I listen (FYI: this is showing compassion to listen).  After a while they realize they have shared all their pain, but to me, the one with the HUGE agonies.  They are now completely mortified and apologize because they say, 

"Your pain is worse than my pain."

One thing that I have learned all these years is that pain is pain.  My agonies HURT and they never go away, only God softens them somehow so I can continue.  But your agonies hurt also.  Pain is pain.  You are allowed to share them, and to share them with me.  I can understand your pain and then I can point you to the One who can help you through it.

One very beautiful thing is how God uses our pain; it is not wasted. 

Romans 8:28
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  

First, He uses it in us.  We learn to draw closer to Him, to trust Him with our impossible agonies.  I have said it before in another post how I have allowed my sufferings to draw me closer to the LORD God Almighty.  They have been agonizing years, but they have been the best years as I have learned the LORD loves me so.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
"Therefore we do not lose heart, 
but though our outer man is decaying, 
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us 
an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 
while we look not at the things which are seen, 
but at the things which are not seen; 
for the things which are seen are temporal, 
but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Second, He uses our pain in others.  Other people (Saved by God's grace and the unsaved) see we who are trusting God completely, and they wonder how we can do what we do - if only smile.  Sometimes they realize it is the LORD, rarely they ask why, and other times they just wonder and perhaps the LORD works in them.

Grief is a strange thing.  It is long.  It is isolating.  It is emotional.  It comes out in private.  It comes out in public. It sneaks up on you.  It is painful.  It hurts.  It is confusing.  It is fearful.  It is exhausting.  It opens your eyes to the LORD.  It gives you a new way to think and to live.  It is cleansing.  It is not a bad thing.  It is just a thing that happens.  It is a normal thing in this fallen world.

Contemplate this:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15
"There is an appointed time for everything. 
And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill and a time to heal;

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to weep and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn and a time to dance.

A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;

A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.

A time to search and a time to give up as lost;

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;

A time to be silent and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate;

A time for war and a time for peace.

What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? 
I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men 
with which to occupy themselves.
He has made everything appropriate in its time. 
He has also set eternity in their heart, 
yet so that man will not find out the work which God 
has done from the beginning even to the end.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice 
and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man 
who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor 

—it is the gift of God. 

I know that everything God does will remain forever; 
there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, 
for God has so worked that men should fear Him. 
That which is has been already 
and that which will be has already been, 
for God seeks what has passed by."

So many of these verses can be spoken of, and thought of in the complicatedness of grief.

The LORD is with us. He is with us when we rejoice, and He is with us in our grief.  He is our strength, and He is our comfort.  

Cry out to Him with me.


Anonymous said...

What can I say, the whole first half of this post, you took the words out of my mouth. Compassion does cost. A lot. I do agree with you, that is probably the reason why there is so little of it found in the church. Considering how OUR LORD paid such a great cost to minister to us with compassion, should we not be willing to extend even a small amount of this to one another? Sadly, I am afraid, for the reasons you stated, the answer is far too often, no. When one is in agony, one often gets discarded by other believers as if you were refuse.

What you said about grief is so true - it can be so isolating, emotional, stealthy, confusing, exhausting.

The passage from Ecclesiastes was so precious, in light of this topic.

Thank you for posting this "series". Looking forward to what else the Lord brings to your mind.


The Piper's Wife said...

Carolyn, you are so kind. As I have stated with you before, this topic of grief has been on my heart. It has been nagging at me, but it was too huge to even contemplate the emotional toll and the time to put into it, so I put it off. I can only give this to the LORD who gave me the impetus to begin and the strength to do so in all the chaos. He continues to prompt me so I already have a "list" to delve into where before I only had the word "grief" in my mind. Praises to the LORD for His marvelous comfort!

Thank you for the word "stealthy". Perfect for discussing grief. We can certainly express outwardly in our agonies, but mostly, we are silent among the throngs.

LORD, have mercy!