This week I found myself thanking God for my pain. I found myself thanking him for the suffering I have lived through. I found my heart overflowing with gratitude that he didn’t leave me in my comfort and mediocrity, thankful that he had pulled me into the deep and submerged me in a sea of suffering.
I’m not a masochist or anything. I hate pain just as much as the next person, but I have learned something about pain.
It’s our cocoon.
It is the key ingredient in our metamorphosis.
It is through pain that we emerge either in our splendor or…in a crippled and warped version of ourselves.
And the difference is all in our attitude.
One of my friends always throws a big halloween party, and I was excited to go this year as a bunch of my old gang, many who I hadn’t seen in over a year, were going to be there.
One of the things I hadn’t thought through was the fact that, the intervening year had been one of the hardest and most humiliating of my life. And of course, every single one of them was going to ask me how I was doing.
That was a loaded question.
How was I doing?
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one to just answer with the lame (and typically untrue) “fine.” One of my core beliefs is living with my life wide open. I don’t mean emotionally vomiting all over people (be honest, you just had someone’s face or name flash though your mind. We all have that one person). I mean being authentic and real. Admitting to my struggles and open with my failures. No photoshopping my life to make it look better than it is. Just being me, in all my imperfection.
So if I was going to answer how I was doing and be real, I needed to do some real reflection. How was I really?
With a little bit of surprise, and a feeling of intense gratitude, I realized I was good, really good.
Last year at this time, I was still feeling the ache (and sometimes sharp agonizing pains) of betrayal. I was still fighting the battle of humiliation. I was still battling (sometimes hourly) the fear of how I was going to make it as a single mother in an expensive city with zero child support.
Last year was a battle in faith. It was a battle in truth. And it was a battle of trust.
I put my stake in the ground, my hands up in surrender, and I threw myself in the arms of my savior.
Nothing made sense. Nothing was what I had planned. I didn’t know how tomorrow could possibly work.
But I knew my God. And I trusted that He had a plan.
Not despite the devastation I was experiencing, but through it.
There were times I begged God to take the pain away. Times when I thought this life was just too hard. Times when the very idea of living made me feel weary.
But, beneath those times, and far deeper, was my knowledge, my unshakeable faith that, if I let him, the work He would do in me would be well worth the pain. All I needed to do was hold on. And hold to him with everything I was worth.
And here, only a year later, I realized that I had come full circle.
His promise to comfort was filled. His promise to heal was answered. His promise to provide was fulfilled.
And I found myself filled with gratitude for my suffering.
Because here I stand, not just a survivor, but an overcomer. Stronger than I ever imagined. Independent. More sure of who I am and whose I am than ever before. And it never would have happened if He hadn’t led me through the fire.
Many people have often told me how strong I am. But, I don’t think that my strength is exceptional. It’s just that suffering and heartache have burned away my weakness and revealed what was already there–I just didn’t know it.
I’m not stronger. I just let pain do it’s work.
See, growth is often not about growing, as much as it is about chiseling away the excess and revealing what is already there, buried beneath the surface.
The Bible calls it the refiner’s fire, burning away the dross.
And we have so very much dross.
We tend to see the fire as an attack from the enemy, or an injustice, or the unfairness of fate, but I believe that God is not just in the good parts of my life, but also in the storms, the disasters, and the darkest nights of our soul. They are a holy fire, a gift, yes a gift, and an answer to our prayers to be more like Him.
So many times, when I tell someone about Serena and what I lived through with her loss, they say they could never have done that, they never could have survived such a loss. But here’s the thing, I would have said the same thing if I hadn’t been forced to live it.
We simply don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re forced to it. Until we’re stretched and pulled and thrown into the fire we just don’t know what we’re capable of. Only then do we find out just how strong we really are.
If I have learned anything from this crazy, and heart-wrenching journey called life, it is this: Though our instinct is to run from pain, we should meet it with our arms open wide and embrace it, knowing that, if we let it, transformation is on the other side.
If we fight it, if we run, or if we hide, pain warps and it cripples, but when embraced, we are re-made.
The thing about pain is, it catches us all. There is no escaping it. It is part of the human experience.
No one gets to stay a caterpillar.
The decision we each have to make it who we want to be on the other side of it.
There are no short cuts when it comes to pain. There is no getting around it. Not tunneling under it. No hiding from it.
There is only getting through it.
When we hide from our pain, ignore it, or when we allow it to consume us, it turns us into something ugly. It is a poison that steals and maims.
And these people never emerge as who they were intended to be.
In truth, these people tend to become inflicters of pain. In their brokenness, they leave pain in their wake. They suck life from those around them, a real-life dementor.
But here’s the thing, it’s totally up to you.
You are stronger than you know. Are you willing to find out how strong?
You are capable of more than you ever believed. Will you dare to find out just what you can do?
And you are more amazing, more beautiful, than you can imagine. Are you willing to be transformed?
I won’t lie to you. It won’t be easy.
But it’s worth it. You can trust Him. He’s got you, and He’s got this.