Faith, Hearing God, Revealing Jesus, surrender

Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain

JessicaSufferingQuote

Ugly tears coursed down my cheeks. Why? How could this have happened? The betrayal hit me like a gut punch. I wanted to scream it all away, or at the very least tear someone apart with my bare fingernails. But even that wouldn’t make it better, wouldn’t erase what I was going through. I felt so alone.

The hurt felt worse than a knife. It felt like a massive, crushing weight obliterating every inch of who I’d been. And I was left alone to pick up the pieces, not even sure I could.

Sometimes, the hardships we go through seem unimaginable: A difficult, completely unfair illness cutting us down in the prime of our life. Debilitating financial or legal issues that seem to have no way out. Crushing betrayal or other emotional or physical violation. It’s the opposite of how we think life should go.

In the midst of my pain, I was on my own. I knew no one who’d been through what I was experiencing. There was no one I could confide in who’d truly understand. Talking to a counselor brought temporary relief but no real solutions. Blocking it out and staying as busy as possible only worked for so long.

Then came Jesus. In the darkness, in the depths of my pain, I realized: He knew. I didn’t even have to open my mouth to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal.

Not only that, but He’d been there, too.

In the depths of my #pain, I realized: #Jesus knew. I didn’t have to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal. He'd been there, too. Click To Tweet

He’d experienced the worst pain, the deepest betrayal, the hardest suffering—none of it deserved, and all of it something He could stop if only He caved to temptation. Yet our Savior chose to bear the cup of sacrifice and endure. And it hurt Him—so very, very badly.

But for some reason, I’d never before understood this. Growing up, I’d been taught Jesus died on the cross, but His suffering seemed abstract. In paintings depicting the crucifixion, the holes from the nails had a bit of blood, and Jesus was frowning beneath His crown of thorns, but it was all rather contained—a PG version of what He’d really been through. Then His suffering was over and, whoosh! Our Savior was dressed in head-to-toe white with a glowing golden halo, smiling like He’d never been gasping for His last breath or sobbing from the pain of being sold for thirty pieces of silver by one of His twelve best friends.

But when I encountered Jesus in my sorrow, it wasn’t the Sunday school, family-friendly version kneeling beside me as I collapsed before Him in a darkened room with my prayer of surrender. It was the scarred-up Jesus, the One who remembered the ragged bloodstained holes from where they’d driven the nails in, who didn’t wince as they beat Him but cried out in agony, who didn’t just quietly and stoically accept that Judas let Him down but ached over the treachery.

This Jesus understood. And when I realized that, and I allowed him to meet me in my suffering, I was no longer alone.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared suffering when we walk with Jesus, which makes all the difference.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared #suffering when we walk with #Jesus, which makes all the difference. Click To Tweet

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (ESV).” These aren’t just words on a page. There is true rest, a peace, in knowing Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden.

There is true rest, a #peace, in knowing #Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden. Click To Tweet

But not only is there rest, but also hope. While Jesus did suffer, His suffering ended. He overcame. He triumphed. As He told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Many years have passed since my tough time, and sometimes it feels like it didn’t happen to me at all, but rather to a character in a book I read. I still go through hard times, when I want to throw myself on the bed and cry, when I want to give up and surrender.

Yet now I have a secret weapon: I know God is with me in the center of my pain. And that, like nothing else, helps move me towards healing.

Faith, Revealing Jesus

Setting an Example

Andrea-FaithExampleQuoteWeb

Sometimes my greatest impact, positive or negative, comes when I think no one is watching. One hand was on the wheel, the other in the air. It was just another drive to the grocery store blasting my favorite gospel music. It didn’t seem like an important moment until I looked back and saw my daughter. Her little hand was stretched high as she sang along with me. Sometimes I forget how powerful our actions of faith can be.

Don’t let my example fool you. I blow it about twenty times a day in parenthood and in life. Who knows what my three-year-old tells his preschool teacher. Maybe something about his mom yelling at the dog who peed on the carpet again. Or perhaps how I gasp fearfully at any sudden movement.

Truth is, I’ve modeled frustration, impatience, doubt, and fear more than I’ve wanted to.

But that day in the car made me more aware that my actions and words are important in God’s kingdom. I claim to be a Christian, but is my faith evident to others by what I do? Do we as God’s people show God’s love instead of just telling about it?I claim to be a Christian, but is my faith evident to others by what I do? Do we as God’s people show God’s love instead of just telling about it? Click To Tweet

I need God to help me live out my faith. I want to live life outwardly trusting Him so that my kids, neighbors, friends, and family can know the Jesus I do–Jesus who loves fiercely, forgives genuinely, and is completely pure and faithful. He is who I want to be like.

AndreaExampleQuoteWeb

This is a something we should desire as Christians.

Peter, one of the disciples, urged, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV).

So we have to ask ourselves who’s in our flock? Who are the people God put in our lives who look up to us? And how can we show God’s goodness and love to them? Most importantly, are we willing to be an example?

For me, this starts with my family. I desire so much for my children. I want them to grow into joyful, kind, helpful, and patient people. First, I must model those qualities to them.

Scripture says, “But the fruit of the Spirit”– what God produces in us– “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, ESV).

A few years ago, I didn’t feel like I had any of these qualities. I wanted these traits to be true of my family, but they weren’t true of me. I had little joy, peace, or patience and couldn’t be the model God had called me to be. I had to start desiring the fruit of the Spirit in my own life before I could give it away to others. I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace.

I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace.I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace. Click To Tweet

I love that the Bible says there’s no law against God’s love. It’s good for us to want all of His traits–His good fruit–to fill our hearts so we can pass unconditional love along to everyone we meet. But how?

I’ve found, the more time I spend with God, reading Bible passages of His love for me, the more I am prompted to show extravagant grace and love to others. Likewise, the more I pray asking for Him to fill me up with His goodness, the more my default is to extend patience in chaos and forgiveness in hard times. When we let God be our leader through His Holy Spirit, we naturally model His love to others.

We’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but as I seek to live out my faith, I keep my lifeline to God active so I can reflect His love when mine wears thin. Thank you Jesus for teaching us how to walk in Your ways through your Spirit!

cropped-14463231_1156942497713722_2616386130328014634_n.jpg

Let’s talk about this! When have you realized you were or needed to model faith in action to those around you? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement.