“Forgive who hurt you in the past. But never forget the lessons they taught you” – Unknown
Sunday afternoon I was in a class like I am most Sundays teaching a class at church. As I was speaking with my students we stumbled on the subject of pain and it’s implications on our lives. As we discussed some recent tragedies that have occurred in our community and church family, one of my students begin to share her personal experience with people she has dealt with that work in the area of grief support. She mentioned a significant percentage of people who attempt to commit suicide really do not want to die, but many have become so overwhelmed with pain and grief that any alternative seems futile. She even mentioned a number of people calling 911 after jumping off bridges or buildings to say they have changed their minds. How tragic is that?! Now although I have no real facts to support this statement, I believe it does carry a portion of some truth, because I know that many people throughout the world are hurting.
As I listened to my student share this startling information I couldn’t help but think of how pain affects all of our lives. Just as we are created uniquely, we also handle distress and issues very differently. It is not a question of who is right or who is wrong, but more importantly the perspective we have while enduring potentially life changing circumstances, like divorce, death, unemployment, poverty, sickness, depression, etc. And with each of these issues there are many available vices to attach ourselves to that numb the noise of the pain, at least temporarily, but at some point we will face the reality of our lives, whether we are prepared to handle it or not. And unfortunately with those vices comes additional complications like addiction, crime and poor judgment, but while listening to her share, something struck me. People just want to be rid of the pain they feel, and they (we) will choose the path of least resistance to obtain any form of peace, whether pseudo peace or real.
Here lies the fork in the road for most of us, because the path of least resistance will inevitably lead to our dismay. Depending on how we were raised, the creeds of our life, our belief system and mental and emotional health, is directly tied to how we will respond to life tragedy. Many assume it becomes more about how strong or weak we are, but it is so much more than that. If that were the case, getting stronger is all that we would need, but simply being strong is not always enough. Or perhaps it is we need to redefine what being strong looks like during a crisis.
So there I was, at one of my lowest points in my life. I simply wanted to stay in bed and sleep in my “closed-blinds” room. I replayed the incident in my head over and over like it was a broken record. How did I allow this to happen to me, to my family? What will I do next? How did I get here? Is this really happening to me? Can I ever come out of this? These and many more questions like this plagued my mind continuously, until one day I finally broke. I guess you could call my breaking point, literally.
Although the phrase “breaking point” has a negative connotation, it was in that moment that I discovered the true strength I needed to press on in life. I had many options on how to recover and rebuild, but being broken is what actually brought me the peace I needed to carry on. The actual strength I so desperately needed came in my ability to surrender, confess and take responsibility, no matter how embarrassing or shameful it seemed. My choice to repent to God, take counsel and listen to trusted friends and family made all the difference in the world.
In the moment, this decision may have come across as weakness, but actually it was quite the contrary. I firmly believe that real strength is not about brawn, machismo, denial or avoidance, but an ability to surrender one’s heart and mind to something greater than themselves. Now I don’t know what that greater “thing” is for you, but for me it is my belief in Jesus Christ. This is my starting point, and the rest unfolds as is it should. And although there is no cookie-cutter result for how we heal, become whole or start over, this is how my pain began to dissipate.
Emotional pain has to be the worst type of pain to experience and although I wish it on no one, it is still prevalent throughout the world. Some handle it well, while many others slip deeper into darkness or become victims to even worse circumstances. The desire for relief is a form of survival that is real to us all, but our options for that relief are often more detrimental (when we’re in an unhealthy state) than the initial pain we faced. When it surfaces, pain often feels like an enemy to our soul, and we will do almost anything to make it go away. What we must understand and learn about ourselves is our propensities to make things worse by any means necessary. Easier said than done for sure, but as much as pain hurts it is also a great teacher. I never want to experience it at my own expense, so I make the choice to learn the lessons that I must learn. Yes, they are hard to swallow and often take longer than I could have ever imagined to come full circle, but at the end of the day or night, when I have peace, the world is a better place and I will fight to keep it that way.