Day 9 ~ Praise and Pain in the Same Space
I was holding my breath. Everything difficult held in, everything beautiful kept out. I was frozen, avoiding any movement because everything hurt. Everything stung. I let out little bursts of air that caught in the back of my throat because the pain picked and picked and picked. The only way to cope was to pant it out. There was never complete relief, but occasionally there was a little, momentary suspension in time that reminded me that there is something to feel other than pain.
Then came the babies. One and then two. Girl and then boy. I heaved in a breath, filled my lungs deeply, and realized I was not dead. I was not lost. I was anchored in a little family with a man who pledged his life to my happiness, and who to this day keeps his promises to me.
The girl splashed colors on my black and white world, and the boy…The boy brought about discoveries of important things that must be searched out; treasures hidden in quiet and unexpected places.
Before his birth, my life was most significantly marked by sorrow. I was a serious, heavy-hearted girl that found myself a mother a little before I felt ready. My first baby brought a bright streak of joy into my life, but in many ways, I still felt more like an observer of joy than a partaker. I thought in order to be joyful, I would somehow have to say goodbye to sadness, which was never going to happen, not with this over-sensitive heart. Sadness was, and is, here to stay.
At age twenty-five, in my home with two little ones, I discovered a truth that has pushed open a door to healing in me that still mystifies me.
Did you know that praise and pain occupy the same space?
Praise and pain are intertwined together, as are the joy and sorrow of our earthly experiences. They cannot be separated into separate, tidy spaces. Praise is an act of faith in the midst of our sorrow and suffering; a declaration that God is good in spite of the wounds that would lie to us and try to convince us otherwise. God is good. God loves. God heals and restores and transforms, but He does so only for those who give Him permission to work in His way, on His timeline.
That sure does strike a blow in the whole “must control everything” or “must be the captain of my own ship” thing.
We are free to say yes, and we are free to say no.
Does it not follow that God’s enemy (whom He tells us prowls around looking for someone to devour – 1 Peter 5:8) would do everything within his power to keep you from saying yes?
It happens right under our noses. The liar, the accuser tries to put every obstacle between us and God.
My son, named Judah (which means Praise) tore his way into the world to bring me a message that I cling to now more than ever.
My praise in the midst of my pain is what frees me from fear.
It’s not a destination—I have not arrived at a fear-free juncture, but the power fear has over me is no longer crippling. It is no longer the defining, pervasive part of my story.
Praise in the midst of pain is the long, but certain path to freedom, peace, and joy.
I don’t mean to make it sound easy, because it surely isn’t. Simple, but not easy. It requires the excavation of our lives, digging up the dead bones and hard things, and surrendering them up to God. The work of redemption and restoration isn’t a switch to flip or a microwaveable solution.
It is a daily choice to acknowledge God, give thanks to Him for the good in our lives, and invite Him in to renew us from within. It is a constant conversation, building trust and watering seeds of faith as they sprout. It is to intentionally apprehend true things and digest them slowly.
I used to think that if God was good, He would prove it by fixing all the wrong things in the world. I mean, can’t He see what a mess this is?
The thing is, one day, He will fix all the wrong things.
He says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
We’re just not there yet.
We’re still in the “former things” stretch, and in this stretch, He leaves it up to us whether we want to discover the fullness of His love, and see His transformative work in our lives.
He dignifies us by giving us complete freedom to choose Him….or not.
The thing is, it’s not a passive choice. We choose to make our lives according to what seems best to us (being wise in our own estimation, leaning on our own finite strength), or we choose to make our lives according to what God says is best for us…a mysterious and confounding journey that unfolds as we step forward in faith and often requires that we see things differently than when we looked at the world with eyes that do not yet know the revolutionary love of God.
If there is a ‘yes’ and a ‘want to’ in the heart, there is a way forward even if the darkness feels thick all around.
For me, seeing differently started with the traumatic precipitous birth that brought my son earthside. It was wild. It was a deeply painful experience—both literally and spiritually. I’ve left out some of the details of that, but on the near side of the birth, I had my little praise-baby. My shout to the Lord that even though I was low, still hurting, and still battling fears on several levels, that I believe He is good to me. I believe that He will uphold me. “For I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12
Before, I thought a survivor survived by muscling through. I thought faith grew from seeds of proof and predictability. I thought praise was something to be offered when the weather was fair. I never imagined that God’s world would ask me to look at everything upside-down. A survivor heals through surrender to God. Faith grows from praise and thanks offered, even from a humble station…maybe especially from a humble station. God sees us acknowledging Him, inviting Him in, and He shows up.
If we wait to praise God until the pain is over, we will be waiting and waiting, and the deep and miraculous healing we long for will remain out of reach.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:6-10