This season of my life has been a swirl of events that have been an ever so eventful in every capacity. From celebrating finishing my first semester of bible college, celebrating friends graduations, or making new friendships at church. It’s been pure joy. But, the reality of feeling the loss of a cherished loved one is quite frankly daunting. Some days I can go on about my day, remember the death, and know that she’s now in the presence of God delighting in his everlasting goodness. But other days, it feels like the weight of the world is pushing down my aching heart. Let’s talk about the reality of pain and how to accept it.
I’m often at odds between two seemingly contrasting ideas in my head. The first being that:
- If I just “believed” more than I’d feel less pain.
- That because I’m feeling this pain, God must not be good.
When we look at the story of the Bible, the Bible directly and indirectly addresses the two ideas in different passages/stories scattered all throughout. The first story I want to put on display is the story of Hannah found in 1 Samuel. The story starts off with Elkanah having two wives, one of which able to have children and the other (Hannah) being completely barren.
The Pain of Being Childless
In the timeframe from which this book was written (1100 BC), a woman’s value and worth was directly tied to her ability to produce and raise children so that the family lineage would continue on. And even more so to have male children. As seen in the text, Elkanahs second wife would often provoke and ridicule Hannah, even to the point of tears for years on end. We see an interesting response by Hannah’s husband when he says,
Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?1 Samual 1:8
What does this mean? It shows Elkanah’s pure arrogance and heightened sense of self, so much that he disregards and ignores his wife’s visible pain and anguish. But alas, the story continues. Hannah is still bereaved by the fact that she still can’t have children. Her immediate response is to pray to God and while weeping bitterly (1 Sam 1:10). Her deepest longing is to have a son and her prayer depicts her utter reliance and trust in God by praying. She vowed a vow and said:
O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.1 Sam 1:11
Trusting in God Through Our Pain
We see in Hannahs story that while she was barren and grieved, she placed her faith in the God who controls all things because of the overwhelming truth that God is good in all things even when we can’t see or understand it. While the thrust of 1 and 2 Samuel isn’t the story of Hannah, sitting and relishing in this story can shift our hearts to the complexities of what real life is like for both you, me, and everyone else in the world.
We will all suffer and go through hardships and long for a day when our hearts experience supreme freedom and satisfaction. This is part of the reality of pain and how to accept it. But, the reality is that peace for our hearts can only come from one person. Christ and Christ alone. That when we tether our hearts to the person and work of Christ, we see a God who took on flesh so that we may see the meekness, gentleness, and love that only God can himself could ever provide. With all this in mind, here’s how knowing this truth and seeing the example of Hannah has shaped my heart, mind and soul in the echoes of the night when all seems lost.
Praying During Painful Times
Praying the psalms. Simply reading a psalm, seeing how the author depicts his emotion, and using the words of scripture to be the words with which my heart relates and speaks to God. What better way of praying to God then with the words that he himself gave to us for our good and his glory?
Daily reading of scripture. Simply abiding and making time for the scriptures that God himself gave to us is vital. When we realize that we ourselves are weak and feeble, then dependence on God becomes an advantage. We all need an utter reliance on God. Equipping our daily rhythms of life to the things and words of God will reorient our very beings in every sense of the word. This is imperative in our ability to move past the reality of pain and how to accept it.
What is True Community? How Can Friends Help
Having a community of believers while living a life that’s open and vulnerable with others is a call from scripture that leads to wisdom (Pro 12:15). Believers who you can share the intricacies of your life that both admonish and encourage you as you grow in Christlikeness.
The intertwining of these three habits and decisions will not solely make you feel better, but actually encourage and thrust you forward to the character and nature of God. Because a knowledge of God and his character is the pathway in which we learn to be learners and lovers of Christ himself and not simply his gifts or how he makes us feel.