Pain is something that is very familiar to everyone. It simply does not matter if a person is white collar or blue collar. Every person of every race, gender, religion, political standpoint, and economic position all have the face the reality of pain in one way or another – it’s one of the few uniting factors for all humanity. We have all dealt with it and we all have overcome it in some way. Ecclesiastes chapter three even talks about how we all go through times when we must deal with struggles. This is what it means to be fully human…fully spiritual. You simply cannot expect to live your entire life on the mountain peaks. There will be valleys and deserts to traverse. When you try to make mountain peaks your norm you begin to live in a false world and isolate yourself from reality.
I look back on my time in ministry and realize that I have experienced and witnessed a lot of pain – the kind of troubles and trials you simply would not believe existed in the church. Nonetheless the truth is that they do exist in this world and in the church. Bottom line: people are not perfect and bad things happen.
Sure, some of the pain I have experienced is due to situations beyond my control. But, I have to admit that I have caused some of the pain I have gone through and for that I am sorry. When we go through troubling times it is our job to determine how we will respond to them. In early 2013 I felt compelled to email a few people I promised I would never speak to again. We ended up talking things through and we forgave each other. You will not always get the response you are hoping for but when you follow your heart you can trust that you have done your part. Despite the many positive responses, one person did tell me, “I forgive you, but you are still a wolf in sheep clothing.” You simply cannot change a person’s opinion, only hear them out and let it go.
Does pain change people? Absolutely. Does pain make a person do and say things they wish they had not? Yes. Hurt people tend to do things they come to regret. The first book I ever wrote is full of raw pain. There have been moments when I have wanted to remove it from Amazon but I have chosen not to. Those were real feelings I was experiencing at the time and I’ve come to a point where I am willing to embrace my past. The good, the bad, and the in-between all weave together to make us who we are – we must own our stories.
Here is the beauty though: in Romans 8:31-39 (NIV) Paul tells us, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We will face pain in this life but we will overcome it. For me, it took seven years before I could begin to recover from a painful experience that shook me to the core. In 2013 I faced troubling times again and while it was not as extreme as what I experienced in the past, it was still a tough time to go through. But again, just as before, I am finding the sweet victory of recovery. My prayer is that though you may be going through pain right now you will find joy in your journey once again. You may never be able to mend broken relationships or undo what has been done but that is okay. The key is to focus on moving forward so that your relationships with God and the people he brings into your life continue to grow strong. It’s only when you face the reality of your pain, accept the opportunity to let God heal your heart, and choose to move on that you will find the freedom and victory you deserve.