Somewhere along the way on my faith journey, I forgot how to cry. I was so busy trying to be strong and full of faith and not disappoint anyone around me that I denied myself the right to feel and process and grieve as necessary. And in the denying of myself, I denied God the position to be my perfect Comforter.
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle Are they not in Your book?
We are told to guard against ’emotionalism’ and negativity, and rightly so because they can become at war with our faith if we are not careful. We are urged to shut down thoughts that don’t resemble what we think a strong and happy Christian should look like. So we bury them and hope they will just go away. And when life overwhelms and we find ourselves maxed out and distraught with misery and incapable of holding ourselves together, the feelings of guilt and shame join the party to make us feel even worse. We seem to have created a culture that sweeps grief under the rug with pet answers and word formulas and barely a band-aide to get by.
How did we get to this place?
How have we become so insensitive to the pain of others and of our own selves, that we no longer care to stop and hurt with the hurting? To take the time to power through in prayer to see the wounded healed? To edify with words AND actions to back up those words? How did I put so much pressure on myself to the point of thinking that crying and grieving was considered a lack of faith???
Now I want to be clear: I am not advocating for pity-fests that will produce no fruit. I am not promoting becoming an emotional basket case where anything and everyone becomes an excuse for us to lose control of ourselves and fall into despair. No, we are supposed to walk by faith. We are never meant to stay steeped in our pain. But what I am referring to is having an authentic relationship with the Lord where we can be real in safety and process the pains of our sorrows safely with One who can help and to not walk around pretending that everything is okay when it clearly is not.
I’m Not Okay
A couple years ago, a close friend and mentor called me and asked me how I was doing. I almost told her my normal answer, “I’m good.” But the Holy Spirit locked up my tongue before I could speak and told me to be honest. “I’m actually… NOT okay.” I told her, “In fact, I’m pretty broken right now and I don’t know when I’ll be okay, so whenever you call me or see me, I am not really sure ‘what’ or ‘who’ you will happen upon because I am… not okay.” And tears began to flow. It was a huge moment for me, to risk being judged for being a confirmed mess. For not placing myself on a timetable, a “due date” for recovery. For not putting any pressure on myself to give the pet answers I would normally give. Just to simply be honest about where I was currently at in my heart- giving myself permission to feel again, to BREATHE again.
Silent Anguish, No Trust
I am writing today because I sense that so many people, like myself in recent years, are walking around in silent anguish not knowing who they can really entrust with their broken realities. I feel the need to remind myself that the pain I experience in this world is a direct result of the sin in it, in me and in others- and grief will come from it! In those moments or seasons, when I am being crushed…when my heart bleeds from a wound…when I am hurting and I am NOT okay- there SHOULD be and IS a safe place for me to run to, first in God and then in His Body. And I should, in return be a safe place for others to do the same. WE should be that haven for each other- secondary only to God. (Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2)
I think that one of the reasons we don’t like to tolerate the process of another person’s pain and grief is because first, it’s MESSY, and second…it might just touch a hurting space within our own hearts. If we hold another’s heart in our own, we might just have to admit that we are hurting too. If your pain too closely resembles my own, I might just come undone with you– and I don’t know if I can handle that. I also believe that we need to be careful if we do decide that we are going to come alongside someone in their season of brokenness… that we take special care in not deciding how long their process will be, because it is truly different for each individual.
I was thinking about all of this recently and I wondered, “What ARE we supposed to do when pain strikes?” I don’t think my thought was barely finished before Holy Spirit answered, invitingly, saying, “Come cry to ME.” Cry. Why can’t I just pray and be done with it? “Come Cry.” Can’t I just put it out of my thoughts and it’ll go away? “Come Cry to Me.” But… I don’t want to… cry.
But Soon after, I was given an opportunity to do just that: CRY.
The wound came, the pain commenced and my heart and soul were twisted with hurt, disappointment and just a twinge of offense. I was made keenly aware of the anguish brewing and bubbling within my being. It was awful. It was stressful. It was confusing. I wanted to push it away, but couldn’t. I wanted to deny it, but it had already happened. I wanted to “confess” my way out of it, but it was this giant, festering wound that I simply couldn’t ignore. An eyesore of grief growing by the minute.
I tried talking to one of my closest friends about it. (Because somehow, THAT’S the thing we choose to do, right?) And while their counsel was great and godly and loving and wise, Holy Spirit had other things in mind for me that day. I tried to get busy about the house to stay above the waves that were threatening to swallow me up, but to no avail. Finally, completely exhausted, I made a beeline for my bedroom door, closed it tight, fell on my knees and began to CRY.
“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.” Psalm 10:17
I don’t know how long I cried for. It seemed like quite a while. For the pain I was crying out, there weren’t any eloquent words or lofty prayers or smart scriptures to declare at that moment… I just needed to… CRY. Finally, when words did come, they were simple. Like a child that comes home crying because a neighbor kid took their toy and won’t bring it back while laughing at them. “I am hurt God. They hurt me and I feel angry, and sad, and embarrassed, and betrayed and… it just stinks that people can be so mean…” And my words continued to spill out in His loving presence to His listening ear as I reached for more tissues and allowed the tears to fall. For the first time in a very long time, I didn’t try to stop them. And I felt… better.
Even Tears Can Be Shed In Faith
The tears have kept flowing since then. But now, they are done in faith, knowing that my Father can handle them and I don’t have to hide them. Sometimes, they even happen when I am talking to others. I’ve noticed that it can really startle people who are not used to seeing another person allow their emotions to run so freely. I’ve seen judgment, I’ve seen awkwardness, I’ve seen fear in their eyes as they begin to relate with the tears I shed because it strikes a hurting chord in their own heart. I’ve also seen a hand coming toward me to comfort, a foot that takes a step, just a little closer to let me know they stand with me. And relief. Relief that because I am crying, they can maybe cry too.
So, I’m learning to cry again.
And it’s been quite liberating. No more stuffing, no more pretending, no more masks. No more denying what’s happening with me and to me just so others around me can feel better or so I can maintain control. No more pressure and the stress it brings building up on the inside of me. I’m learning to cry again and to allow Jesus to use the heart behind my tears any way He pleases. And that’s been the best surprise of all- He doesn’t let our tears fall for nothing. In Him, nothing is wasted. Because in the “crying out”, there’s a “releasing of”. That pain inside is forced outside and into the Hands of our very capable God.
And when your brothers and sisters ask you how you are doing, be honest, no matter the consequence. God can use your pain even with others.
Even my tears have purpose. And so do yours.
Sister, we weren’t made to carry pain. There’s only One who can effectively handle that. That thing that hurts deep down that you’ve been carrying around? Go cry before the Lord and just see what He will do. Give yourself permission to grieve and give Him permission to heal. Give yourself permission to hurt, and give Him permission to comfort.
And if people around you can’t handle it, pray for them. They might need a good cry too.