The Thunder of Pain

Shape of the heartGod was in the business of dealing with hurting hearts long before Billy Ray Cyrus became a one hit wonder singing about an “achy breaky heart.” Psalm 34:18 supports my statement: “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.”

When our hearts ache, we feel less like Jesus who walked on water and more like Peter who sank. When Peter began to focus on the howling winds of adversity, he was deaf to the quiet voice that promised: I will never leave you or forsake you.

Warm fuzzy platitudes, and comfortless clichés do little to alleviate the pain that overwhelms us as the waves do the sand on the sea shore—one wave followed by another. The anguish of pain is a stark reminder that we are mere mortals. Henri Nouwen once said that “Christ becomes most present when we are most human.”

The family of Lazarus had some very “human” expectations of Jesus. After all, they were some of Jesus’ closest friends—and they expected more. They expected Jesus to arrive earlier and they expected Him to heal their dying brother.

When expectations meet reality, disappointment can be the result. This reminds me of something Kay Arthur said, and I’ve quoted it before: “The disappointment has come—not because God desires to hurt you or make you miserable or to demoralize you or ruin your life or keep you from knowing happiness. He wants you to be perfect and complete in every aspect, lacking nothing. It’s not the easy times that make you more like Jesus, but the hard times.”

Philip Yancey has made a similar statement: “We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair.’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life- by expecting constant good health for example- then I set myself up for crashing disappointment.”

C.S. Lewis reminds us that, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

During the difficult and painful times of life, we should remember that, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:5).” Perhaps Lewis had this verse in mind when he wrote: “When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

When disappointment comes and the aching of your heart is so intense you think it might not beat again, you may be closer to God than you think. This is because, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.”

If you can tune out the thundering pain for just a moment, you might hear His quiet voice: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-20).”

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