From hiding our pain to healing
I tried in vain to focus on the sweet woman giving me a tour of the Ronald McDonald House. Doing my best not to stare, I found myself in the midst of a foreign subculture that, just days before, I had no idea existed. I mustered the courage to offer a frail “Hi” to a mom with a small, mostly bald child on her lap wearing a hospital mask. My own pain was more than I could bear, so I could hardly take hers in.
The stunning realization that I belonged here unfortunately overshadowed my feelings of gratitude for this amazing place. My greatest fears were realized as my sweet 3-day-old Millie’s tiny body shook with almost constant seizures. She had a brain bleed, underwent neurosurgery, and faced an indefinite critical care hospital stay. We had to wait there almost two months for the blood to clear. The surgeon came in daily to insert a needle into her head to withdraw blood while we just wondered what extent the long-term damage would be.
“She’d likely have some degree of cerebral palsy,” the surgeon said. We already had a daughter on the severe/profound scale of special needs, and I was convinced my heart could endure no more.
The question we have to ask ourselves in the midst of our trouble is this: Should we protect our hearts from feeling, hide our pain, or just let it all out?
3 Unhealthy Ways We Hide From Our Pain
We can keep our lives so packed with activity we don’t have time to feel. Jan Meyers says in her book The Allure of Hope, “We are far more disciplined than we are at rest, far more committed than winsome, far more ‘nice’ than passionate, far more dutiful than free. Far more weary than filled with hope.” We believe the lie that if we work harder or are more disciplined we can mold our hearts into what we want them to be.
We’ve turned hiding our hearts into an artform by trying to make ourselves more beautiful or worthy enough of the love and devotion we seek. If we were to reveal our true selves we’d risk rejection, so we settle for a polished fabrication instead.
We settle for much less than what God has for us because we’re afraid to take chances that could lead to broken hearts. C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
If we can’t imagine our dreams in our reality, we stop dreaming to prevent our hearts from having to endure the pain of failing or missing out on our deepest desires. Ephesians 3:20 promises that He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Why would we settle for so much less?
3 Realizations We Need to Experience Healing
1. I can fall apart.
God already knows, so why not let our emotions follow our mess in the safety of His presence? We can open up our hearts and let them bleed with the God who can be trusted with such personal pain. Prevent the enemy from rendering us useless by taking the pain he intended to harm us, and give God the glory instead.
We can open up our hearts and let them bleed with the God who can be trusted with such personal pain.
2. We can heal with others.
Lock arms with others who are hurting and invite them to see our real brokenness and not be shocked by theirs. Ask for help because we know we can’t do life alone. Like the four friends in Mark 2:1-12, we can take our friends to the Healer when they cannot get there alone, or trust them to carry us when we need help.
3. God can be trusted with the most fragile part of us: our hearts.
In Matthew 11:28 He invites us, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Psalm 55:22 instructs us to, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.” He promises to bring “beauty instead of ashes” in Isaiah 61:3, and to restore “the years the locust have eaten” (Joel 2:25 ESV). We must stop guarding our heart from the only One who can truly heal us. Only through Him can we be real with our emotions and still reflect the God we trust.
In those dark days in the hospital, I had to make a decision to open my heart to our sweet Millie whom God had given, and trust that He would get me through it regardless of the outcome — whether life, death, or disability. God was good before her birth; He was good when her brain bled; and He would still be good in the days to follow. Over two years later, the only evidence of Millie's brain bleed is the permanent shunt that hides under her curly-topped head, a pair of foot braces, yearly neurosurgery checks, and some visits from early intervention to make sure she stays on track. I still want to protect my heart and make the Lord look good with my strength, but He reminds me He is most glorified in His strength in me rather than just mine alone.
Knowing we don’t have to shoulder the stress or have the answers will give us the courage to stop pretending and start living more authentic lives with His power instead of our own.