“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62: 5-8
Pain… anxiety… defeat… What heavy weights we bear.
Restlessness is an all too familiar visitor. It’s quite common to combat it by burying our feelings (or at least throwing figurative "dirt" on them), but this won’t bring us relief, and they will always crawl back to the surface. I’m not someone who refuses to “process” my feelings, but I can’t say I always address them constructively. I don’t live in denial when I feel shaken by life, but I also don’t advertise my dismay. When my heart truly hurts, I feel like a powder keg- one wrong move and I’m bound to explode. When unpleasantries stack up, I’ve been known to respond like someone being walled into a dark cave against their will; clawing and fighting to get out.
The emotional weights of life can be like cinder blocks on our chest- stealing away the very breath in our lungs- draining the wind from our sails- relinquishing us to an angry, frantic, or even irrational state. The journey begins to feel like a series of constant jabs- one splinter removed only for another to take its place.
In the face of woe, most of us strive to maintain some sense of perspective. One way of doing this is to dispassionately remind ourselves that “other people have it so much worse.” Yes, we are likely correct in that assessment (and it might appease us for a time), but it won’t remove our personal anguish. Unfortunately, pain is personal- relative to your life and your situation, and no one can convince you not to hurt (or panic, or lament), not even yourself! Human hearts magnify the voice that screams, “this is all too much for me!” And that’s not the worst place to be, if we know there's a way out. Contrary to the popular spin that too many place on scripture, God never promised that He wouldn’t give us more than we can handle. On the contrary.! He may allow it- and He is fully within His right to do so for greater plans and purposes.
The truth of 1 Corinthians 10:13 declares that… “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
You see? We will (many times) be met with so much more than we can handle on our own. In those moments, we are meant to be vigilant! Pain of all kinds (past and present) can be a bear trap for the devil’s schemes; tempting us to stand in it long enough for him to latch on and keep us there. The blessed truth is that God will not leave you to suffer in this pitfall. He will not let you cave in upon yourself. “He will provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
January was a difficult month for me. If I had the power to close my eyes and forget most of it, I probably would. On New Year's Day, my wife and I tested positive for COVID. We didn’t expect to avoid it forever. Of course, we did expect the “minor symptoms” that so many advertised. Bed-ridden for more than a week, we passed through periods of extreme fever, aches, chills and sweat. I had excruciating headaches that (literally) left me pounding the bed with my fists. I was put on an inhaler when my breathing became difficult. My wife (only weeks away from her due date), was taken to the emergency room to monitor the baby’s vitals. I dwelt in a spirit of guilt as my jobs were left to burden others. It was a harrowing time for both of us, and the first two weeks of our new year felt stolen away in a fog.
After a few days of “normalcy,” my wife went into labor at the peak of a winter storm, and at 2:00 in the morning, I found myself shoveling a path to our SUV and (literally) drifting through unoccupied streets to the emergency room. It was a lengthy and painful labor for her. When the doctor burst in to indicate a “significant drop in the baby’s vitals,” they ordered my wife to start pushing. Hearing “we need to resuscitate the baby” will steal every ounce of joy from any room. They injected our daughter with something that raised her heart rate enough to be courageously brought into the world. After two wonderful days with her, a logistical snag threatened to separate us, causing my wife to be prematurely discharged while our daughter was taken to the nicu. Our morning began with, “congratulations, you’re all going home,” and ended with us scrambling to reach someone who could give us permission to stay. We argued our way into spending the night, mostly by the side of a plastic tank that held our baby girl, blindfolded and connected to wires. The “welcome” dinner at home would have to wait another day. The following morning, hospital directors flooded into the room with their “sincerest apologies,” assuring us this would never happen again.
We returned home, eager to begin a chapter of joyful exhaustion, temporarily residing with my parents while we hunt for a new house. Still, the weights of life stack up. Days after the hospital, a wonderful member of our church congregation passed, and I found myself sitting in the balcony for a celebration of her life. She was a wonderful light of Christ, and a tremendous encouragement to me as a worship leader. In the midst of my tears for her, I was trying to balance news from my wife- updating me on the vet's diagnosis of an incurable condition that was paralyzing our German shepherd. By that evening, it took both of us to help him down the stairs, and we fell apart at the reality of the situation. By the following afternoon, we were sitting with him at the vet and saying goodbye. I’ve never cried like I did that day, and when we returned home, I screamed into my pillow so my family wouldn’t hear. He had been our best friend, and a pure source of joy when the rest of life felt hard. I collected his things, and as the tears poured down my face, I whispered, “God, this is all too much for me.”
Friend, I can’t speak to your situation. I can’t resolve the why and how of it all. There are weights in life we need to address, sort through, get over, and grow from, but we aren’t abandoned to do all the heavy lifting alone. Often, the greatest act of faith is simply to say, “help me, Jesus.” There’s humility in the request, and power in the name. Run to the Father and sincerely declare when it's all too much for you! Don't wear the guise of a painted smile. The fight for joy in pain is not something we can win on our own. Be courageous enough to confess your condition. We can't find rest without help, and we won't be relieved without surrender. Pour your hearts toward Him today and find that there is hope!
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”