The only way out is straight through it, sister.
Not fleeing the scene. Not self-medicating.
Just plain sitting. In it.
Take it from a fellow sufferer–getting through your pain takes a whole lot of sitting with it. Feeling it. Letting it flow over your entire being, like viscous, scalding tar.
It’s the only way. Not fun. But necessary.
As many of us well know, painful seasons are part of life’s ebb and flow. Necessary, because they grow us. Strengthen us like good times never could.
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break 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 cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV)
Pain is like a stomach bug—nobody asks for it. But if you want to have any semblance of a life, you’re going to contract one now and then. Rigorous exercise and late nights out won’t help your body heal. What you need is a blanket and a steaming cup of Theraflu (and a babysitter). And to sit/suffer through it.
Furthermore, pain insists on being known; acknowledged. Much like an infection, dismiss or shove it down, and it’ll only erupt forth, uglier (and infinitely more painful) than if you’d healthily aired and tended it in the first place.
Rebekah Lyons speaks to our tendency toward pain-avoidance in her poignant memoir, Freefall to Fly; a Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning:
“As we experience our rapid descents, how many of us reach out for anything we can grab to break our fall? To escape the pain. To find a way to numb out. We don’t believe God will actually rescue. So we sidestep. We look for a shortcut. Any way out. Because it hurts too much, and it has gone on for far too long. We are weary. Frankly, we are angry that it has gotten this hard.” Rebekah Lyons, Freefall to Fly; A Breathtaking Journey toward a Life of Meaning (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013), 37.
A girlfriend of mine has done a whole lot of sitting in it the past year. At Christmastime, she told me God was impressing on her, “Wait on Me.” She struggled with what that meant. Like, clear my schedule, she wondered? Go to a mountaintop and wait for some Moses-like epiphany?
Turns out, He was telling her to SIT. God instructed her to stop doing; to stop striving to escape her particular painful place, and to just sit in it. Not the answer she was dying to hear. But pivotal nonetheless.
During this time, a counselor afforded her clarity on this discipline—because after all, it takes sheer intentionality in our culture’s rapid current to slow—to stop. And to willingly let your pain wash over you. She counseled my friend to cease begging God to remove her trial. But to sit in it, with Him. Because God, in His limitless grace, doesn’t leave us to sit by our lonesome.
What a beautiful picture—as we sit in our pain, helpless to harness its torrents, we naturally reach heavenward for our Father’s rescue…and He meets us.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a (NKJV)
He is God, and He does rescue.
I did a whole lot of sitting in it myself this year…and though excruciating, I wouldn’t trade the wisdom I gleaned, the intimacy with the Lord I gained, and the gift I received—the chance to witness a miraculous unfolding–His rescuing faithfulness at work in my life as He delivered me from my pain.
Be assured, pain-facing is a process marked by Divine design—gracious intentionality on the part of our Heavenly Father, Who loves us enough to make us sit through the refining process. Sitting is surrender. Cooperation with the One who pulled the chair out for us. And for a reason–that having sat through our pain, we might stand up from the refining place, forever changed. For the better.
Assuredly, when God says we’re through sitting, He ushers in a new season—one of movement. And sweet relief. He pulls out our chair so we can move on from our stagnant, painful place.
“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” 1 Samuel 16:16 (NIV)
In the midst of our mourning He entreats us: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a (NKJV)
…And therein lies the rescuing—the healing. Submerged in the painful process, our God need surfaces, and with Him we can wade through it, to a brighter, lighter place.
Come to the River…
Surrender, sister, to your pain. Take God’s hand, trusting Him to lead you right into the depths of it—and faithfully through to the other side.