Last year was absolutely the best, most painful, most wonderful, most gut-wrenching year of my life to date. Naturally, it’s been a cakewalk to talk about the beauty, but I’ve shied away from the ugly. Out of this season, I have learned that in order to make pain meaningful, I have to be willing to talk about it.
Most of us can see that our gifts, talents, joys are meaningless if not shared with other people. My mom is a great party-planner, but what’s the point in throwing a party if no one is around? My dad is an awesome leader, but if he has no one to lead, the talent is wasted. My sister is phenomenal at making people look beautiful, but if there’s no one to beautify, how will she use her gifts? I get a kick out of writing and talking, but if I had no one across the table, then it would be silly to do it. It’s easy to see in the good and the fun things how other people make everything worthwhile.
Pain is not just about me.
When it comes to pain, we seem to lose sight of other people. If everything happens for a reason, then there must be a purpose for our inexplicable pain, the same way there is for our good stuff. When we hurt, sometimes the only comfort is having people around you to say: “I know”, “me too”, “I’ve been there.” It’s why we have help-groups for people in shared experiences—alcoholics anonymous, grief counseling, suicide hotlines.
There is a caveat: We actually have to go through tough times to be able to say “me too” to someone in pain. I could probably successfully spend my life clinically reintegrating child soldiers into normalized society, but I will never be able to say to one of those kids “I really get it.” I can bring hope and Jesus, but I know that someone who has a shared experience is going to reach the tough places I will never understand.
In pain, we always ask the selfish questions—why me? Why are you doing this to me? Is my God really good after all? Is my faith cheap? How can this be happening to me?
I get it. I have asked these questions over and over again.
I had to go through it myself.
Before I walked with the Lord, I had a lot of relationship drama. My answer: swear off men and bury the past. Sometime after that, the Lord found me. The guy crap stayed swept beneath the rug, and I was convinced it had been dealt with… until a situation and a boy made it clear that it was, in fact, just as real an issue as before. I had my heart broken because I made the classical mistakes: I ignored my friends and family who told me to run like hell, I isolated myself, and I acted like I had everything figured out when really I was drowning and had no idea how to yell “help”, let alone turn to the Lord.
When this boy made his way through my life, I had already spent a year on mission trips and felt like I should have had life figured out. So I spent a solid ten months going between fits of hyperventilating and contrite brokenness, between running as far away as I could and ending at the feet of the only Real Comforter I knew. Somewhere in there, I learned to trust the Lord, to know peace. I learned to be okay when nothing felt or looked okay. I watched my own anger and pain turn to unshakeable strength and resolve. I watched a controlling girl become a fierce woman.
Through it all, I didn’t know WHY. Sure I knew I needed to grow up—but there had to have been less painful ways. Every single day, I begged for the pain to be taken away. I was constantly apologizing that I had not listened to anyone in my life. I knew my choices had gotten me where I was, but I was still crying out not to go through the pain.
It wasn’t just about me.
This year, I led a mission trip around the world with a group of sixty people: forty-five of which were women. During the five months I was with them, I had countless conversations about their tough home lives, the expectations on their shoulders, the loss in their lives. But what really hit my core, what inevitably brought my tears and prayer was broken hearted women hurt by their choices with men. And I could hold these women, genuinely cry with them and say “I know. Me too. I’ve been there. I was just there.” My wound is still healing enough to be sore when touched. I feel the hurt of these women. I get it.
But a year ago, I definitely did not understand. After talking and walking with these women, I can see that I had to live last year, had to take the lashes, had to feel the pain in order to really comfort and push. I see the beauty coming out of my own ashes. Life is coming from my deep, lonely pain. And I know that my “I get it” is real. I have learned to say thank you for the pain that has already brought more life than death.
He went through it too.
Like all things, it goes back to Jesus. He came here to live the weight of temptation as a man, to go through the exact same things we go through, to bear the weight of sin. In Luke 4, he was tempted in the wilderness—he went through everything we go through. When Jesus says “I get it”, he means it. He laid aside his deity—an eternity of being God—to become man, to say to us “I get it”.
It’s not cheap.
He died, taking my lashes, so when I come to Him with my own pain, I know without a shadow of a doubt that he gets me.
He knows exactly how I feel.
He knows abandonment, betrayal, and the deepest depths of pain.
If sinless Jesus Christ had to feel pain in order to be real with us, to connect with us, I’m pretty sure “why me” is the wrong question to be asking.
Use your pain to set others free.
I want to challenge you to rethink the questions you’re asking about your hard stuff. Instead of begging “Why me?”, ask “Who is this for? What do you need me to see, feel, go through here? How can I use this to help someone else?”.
I promise you that your pain is not in vain.
And. I want to challenge you to talk about it. Right now part of my daily prayer is, “Lord, help me be honest in my process. Give me the courage to show up and be seen.” It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for any of us. I know some of you have gone through things that I need to hear. I promise: there are people in your life waiting for you to say, “I get it. Me too.”