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Facing Pain

Many of us have annual physicals and mammograms and go to dentist appointments twice per year. And yet, to take intentional steps toward healing from hurt, pain and loss seems to be an elusive ever moving goal. We may busy ourselves with anything that helps us avoid even thinking about our emotional wounds of grief, loss, estranged relationships or trauma. We may attempt to shout over emotional pain. Dance over it. Speak in tongues over it. Have sex over it. Drink and smoke over it. Work extra hours over it. Hang around crowds to muffle the pain or earn degrees to ignore it. But pain is always a signal that something needs to be addressed. Thankfully, the signal will not stop emitting simply because we are pretending it’s not there. Just as if you were dealing with an untreated broken leg, emotional pain will stay right there and take a seat in your office, lay in your bed, sit with you during praise and worship and take a seat at your dinner table to ensure that the place you’re hurting is healed. An untreated broken leg gives us a great visual of how painful and foolish it would be to attempt to ignore the pain and continue to function as if nothing is wrong, especially when help is readily available.

Perhaps one reason we avoid discussions about mental and emotional pain is because we feel like it makes us less spiritual to acknowledge the pain, anxiety or depression. If I do not always have feelings of victory, perhaps that means I’m not as holy? If I named it and claimed it but there has been no relief, does that my Holy Spirit ran out of batteries? If I fasted and prayed and after all that I’m still living with or dealing with a loved one with bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, depression and so on, does that mean my salvation is broken? I personally believe erroneous fears such as these are a stumbling block to mental wellness.

The truth of the matter is, one of the fruits of the spirit is long suffering. All the rest of the fruit tastes good, except that one! Not everything will be an Acts 2 “suddenly”. Some things will require the grace of long suffering! We want God to give us all the love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. Everything but long suffering. Truly I have never heard a song title with the word longsuffering in it because nobody would want to listen to it! We would much rather weeping spend the night and joy pick us up (and quickly might I add) in the morning.

Yet, David, the man after God’s own heart, did not silence his emotional pain in an effort to be super holy, a super king or a superhuman. He allowed pain to show him what places needed healing in his life. Pain caused David to cry out to God saying “I’m languishing” (6:2), “My bones are troubled” (Ps. 6:2), “I’m weary from my groaning” Ps. (6:6), “I flood my bed with tears” (Ps. 6:6), “There’s sorrow in my heart all day” (Ps. 13:2) and “I’m lonely” (Ps. 25:16). David understood that when you allow yourself to acknowledge mental health struggles you can receive the help your soul, mind and body are longing for. Had David been too ashamed to feel, he would have never been able to heal. When we have a healthy perspective of pain, we’ll learn its purpose and maybe even gain purpose.

Let’s look to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. Rather than pretend he was not anxious about what was to come, Jesus expressed how he felt in the garden of Gethsemane. What Jesus did not express in words, his body expressed on his behalf as “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22: 44) This phenomenon of bloody sweat, or hematidrosis, is the result of extreme emotional anxiety. Jesus knows your pain! He actually empathizes with it (Hebrews 4: 15). Jesus was and is the visible image of the invisible God, his acknowledgement of pain did not make Jesus any less God. The physical and emotional pain of Jesus was necessary to show us that regardless of how anointed you are, if you refuse to acknowledge your own pain, you cannot feel the pain of others, And if you cannot feel you cannot help anyone else to heal.

If we are to prevail, we must face our pain. There is no get out of jail free card. Your breakout will come from breakthrough. And there is no breakthrough without acknowledging, facing, touching and dealing with whatever it is I desire to breaking through. Today, be intentional about attending to any emotional pain you’ve been avoiding. Talk it out. Write it out. Process it through therapy. Do not allow another day to pass without doing the work of mental and emotional healing. Remember, faith without works is dead (James 2: 17). In the meantime, I am praying for you. What’s better is Jesus is praying for you (Hebrews 7:25) because he knows just what you are going through.

In service,

Stacey McDonald, Ed.S.

Evangelist | Speaker | Author | School Psychologist


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