I have tried bartering with God. "If only, God, You would do this…then." "If only, You would bring me relief, then I promise to…". I have also reacted in anger. I have screamed at God and told Him how awful He is to make me suffer. I have chosen to ignore Him. I have thought, "If You won’t answer my prayers, then I refuse to talk to You." I have said, "I give up, God. I quit." I have wallowed in my despair and taken the route of self-pity. I have withdrawn and secluded myself not only from other people but also from my own self. I have shut down all my emotions to avoid FEELING the pain and the grief of loss. I have been reduced to living life from the sidelines, watching others live their lives, but never able to taste the sweetness of participation. I have watched my dreams vanish like a vapor, being taunted and mocked by the brokenness that resulted from knowing I would never experience the realization of those dreams. I have known aching loneliness. I have been reduced to feeling and living as if I were nothing more than a dead man walking. I had a heartbeat and breath in my lungs, but I lost all passion and vigor for life. I lost any memory of or resemblance to my life before pain. I no longer cared...felt...dreamed...tried. I have abandoned all hope, that my life could be different, that I had any sort of a future apart from the relentless pain. In short, I have lived in the darkness of pain. John Bunyan in his book, Little Pilgrims Progress, describes a scene where the traveler, Christian, becomes stuck in the Slough of Despair. I think “slough” is an accurate description of pain and despair. Webster’s defines “slough” as “a place of deep mire or mud; spiritual dejection.” Yep, I’ve been there too.
Pain comes in many forms. The more obvious forms of pain are the loss of a loved one or through physical illnesses or hardships. But pain also invades and torments our lives through broken relationships with spouses, children or parents, as well as abusive relationships. We also experience pain when our expectations about life, be it with ourselves or others, are not met. We experience pain when we cannot attain our goals or dreams. We experience pain when we lose a sense of purpose in our lives. Our pain can be obvious to others, such as a physical illness. But pain can also be hidden; a heavy burden we carry alone that is known only to ourselves. Outwardly, all appears well, but if someone looked inwardly, they would see despair, brokenness and unrelenting sadness. They would see pain.
I take so much time to describe pain so that it can give credibility to what I say next—I also know hope through Jesus Christ. It’s is one thing for someone to say, “Just trust Jesus,” when they have never experienced pain. I have experienced pain and I have experienced Jesus pierce through the darkness and despair of that pain and bring me hope. I have seen the light of His hope dispel hopelessness when I could see no other alternative or a way out of the pain. I have seen man’s answers fail time after time, yet I have never known one of Christ’s promises in His Word to ever fail. My body has been racked with pain, yet I have experienced a calm and peace despite the pain. I have experienced a supernatural strength to persevere and endure when I was ready to give up the fight. The answer to pain IS Jesus. He alone gives hope and peace. And not peace like a warm fuzzy feeling that everything will magically be better tomorrow. Sometimes Jesus does alleviate the pain, but sometimes He doesn’t. The peace doesn’t come because I thought the next day would be better. The peace came from Jesus to me. Not because I was a good Christian or because I could muster up any merit of my own. It came from Jesus because He is my Father and I am His child, through HIS grace. I have been surrounded by darkness yet had a serenity and calm in my soul that defied logic. I have had hope despite the pain.
I know someone reading this right now is in pain. You feel like you are stuck in the Slough of Despair and cannot find a way out. You are tired and weary. Jesus is with you, desiring to give you hope, peace and strength. He gave His life for you on the Cross to bring you not only salvation and newness of life, but also Hope. Through His grace alone, He loves you and wants to walk with you through this darkness. I do not intend to say that Jesus will make all the pain go away and He will free you from the painful situation. No, but He is present with you. Cry out to Jesus. Stop trying to endure with your own strength. Allow Him to carry and hold you.