Stay with your Pain

“When you experience the deep pain of loneliness, it is understandable that your thoughts go out to the person who was able to take that loneliness way, even if only for a moment. When you feel a huge absence that makes everything look useless, your heart wants only one thing--to be with the person who once was able to dispel these frightful emotions. But it is the absence itself, the emptiness within you, that you have to be willing to experience, not the one who could temporarily take it away”  (Henri Nouwen).

I will be the first to admit that I’m the last one who wants to welcome the pain of loneliness into my life. Experiencing the emptiness within you is difficult to do.  The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about things that will take the loneliness away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, then you make your pain available for God’s healing. It is God who we need to turn to in our pain.

Loneliness can be something that drives you to Him and causes you to rely upon Him.  Pain allows us to get in touch with our desperate need for God. God wants to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need. It is important that you dare to stay with your pain and allow it to be there so that you learn to own your loneliness and trust that it will not always be there. The pain you suffer now is meant to put you in touch with the part in which you most need healing, your very heart. No human being can heal that pain. Still people will be sent to you who will mediate God’s healing, and they will be able to offer you a deep sense of belonging that you desire and bring meaning to all you do. Dare to stay with the pain and trust God’s promise to you.

Sometimes the hardest pain to live with is the pain that we bring upon ourselves by our own selfish actions. As John Holland, former President of Foursquare International was fond of saying, “Don't waste the pain.”  Some of my friends call this the “stupid tax.”  The key is that we learn from it. As C.S. Lewis said,  “If our house was a house of cards felled by one strong gust of wind, the worst mistake we can make is to go about gathering up the cards and building the same house.” 

Whether the pain of loneliness is self-inflicted, or brought on by the actions of others, in God's hands it becomes and instrument of healing and contentment.  If we don't run, hide, or avoid it, then it can be a tutor; it can help teach us to trust and depend on God, the very thing we are called to do in every circumstance and situation.   “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). He will direct the course of your life.  Embrace the pain and allow God to embrace you in your pain. I am confident that you will know He is all sufficient.