A Christian Approach To Coping With Emotional Pain

“Psychologically, nothing hurts more than being disappointed by the one person you thought would never let you down.” I saw this post on Tumblr today (psych2go, if you’re interested in the source). That’s got to be really painful, but I’m not sure I completely agree that nothing hurts more. The death of a child. The loss of a limb. Accidental blindness. These agonizing events are all pretty powerful contenders for the title, “Hurts the Most.”

You’ll have no trouble getting me to agree with this: there’s a lot of pain out there. Some of it strikes home, pretty hard. When it’s not out there, but in here. When it’s personal, it hurts, and nothing else is like it.

If you’ve read much of my stuff, you know that I’m pretty big on following Jesus. I’m not talking about religious ceremony or church attendance. I’m talking about reading Jesus’ words, and then actually using what he says as a guide for your own life.*

So, today I’m thinking a lot about emotional pain, because I’ve had several conversations with friends in the last few days who are going through quite a lot. I think it might be helpful to write a brief summary of some of the things that Jesus taught about coping with pain. Here. Try these ideas. You might get some much needed relief.

  1. Shout it out. Express the agony. Don’t hold it in.

Mark describes Jesus death on the cross like this:

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. (Mark 15:34-37, ESV)

Being strong is overrated. Being real is a lot better. Jesus was real. He didn’t feel any sense of obligation to “die a noble death.” Don’t get me wrong. His death was noble. The noblest. But he didn’t try to hide his sense of aloneness, of utter betrayal, of pain, of loss. His purpose, for me, would be less believable if he wasn’t so… so… genuine.

  1. Surround yourself with friends.

Jesus knew he was going to die. He knew that on that very night he was going to be betrayed, and imprisoned, and tortured. Instead of choosing solitude, he found comfort in companionship. He ate his last supper, and instituted the Lord’s Supper, with friends. He went to the garden with friends. He waited for his betrayer with friends. He remained with friends until he was no longer able to be with friends. Those friends, of course, ran away and left him when the soldiers came. They felt guilty about it later, but Jesus knew ahead of time that it would be that way. He forgave them. My point here is that Jesus didn’t want to be alone. You see, there’s comfort in the presence of friends, even when they can’t do a single thing to change your circumstances. Your friends’ presence is, in itself, a sort of pain reliever.

  1. Forgive.

Jesus was on the cross, in crazy pain, betrayed and abandoned, alone in a crowd. And what did he say?

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34, ESV)

Yes, we can make the logical argument: “Oh, they knew what they were doing, alright! The soldier knew he was holding a nail, and he knew he was swinging a hammer, and he knew Jesus was screaming! He knew. They all knew!”

But Jesus – (how many times has that phrase brought me up short? “But Jesus!…”) but Jesus knows that there’s more than one kind of knowing.

I’m going to tell you a strange truth, an amazing truth. If you believe me when I tell you, it’s because of the power of the Holy Spirit to confirm my words (even if you believe me without believing in him). So, here’s a strange and amazing truth: those nails in your hands, in your feet, in your broken, bleeding heart – those nails hurt you less if you forgive the hammer-wielder. This is from God. It’s a spiritual truth, beyond human understanding.

Conclusion

So, that’s it. Three things. Three things that will help you deal with the greatest pain you have ever felt in your life. (1) Don’t hold in your pain. Express it. (2) Surround yourself with friends. Don’t isolate yourself. (3) Forgive.

Prayer

Father, let this Reader, right now, find some easing of the pain in your presence, in your friendship. Amen.

–Bob Young
[6/28/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

*In case you were wondering, yes, following Jesus is more than just a philosophy for me. I’m on board with the Nicene Creed, for example. Nevertheless, if you can’t, at this time, accept the spiritual dimension of Jesus’ identity, I will still encourage you to follow Jesus’ teachings and way of life. He makes sense, Friend. He makes sense.

Love Is Kind

χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη (I Corinthians 13:4)

“Love is kind.” (I Corinthians 13:4)

ἀγάπη is translated as “love.”

χρηστεύεται is translated as “kind.”

χρηστεύεται is an interesting word. In the Bible, its translation as “kind” is based on context. The word means “useful,” or “useable.” And, to be more specific, this isn’t “useful” in the sense of, “He’s useful – he can be manipulated.” It’s the word “useful” in the sense of “beneficial.” When you’re making a pot of soup, a spoon to stir it with would be useful and beneficial. So, Paul describes love as useful and beneficial. You may wonder, “How did the English translators get “love is kind” out of the word for “useful?”

Highlighted excerpt of I Corinthians 13:4

This is where we must consider context. Context can completely change meaning. For example, if a woman is running at ten miles per hour, we say, “She is running fast.” On the other hand, if a man is driving a car at ten miles per hour, we say, “He is driving slow.” Before we can say whether ten miles per hour is fast or slow, we must be clear about the context.

When Paul says that love is χρηστεύεται, “kind,” we must understand useful and beneficial in the context of love.

Paul is telling us that love isn’t some intangible concept, like “hot” or “cold.”

It isn’t just some philosophical concept, like “virtue” or “honesty.”

Love actually has an effect – it changes things. Love is useful; it’s beneficial.

Paul is explaining that, if you love your neighbor, you don’t just feel some warm, fuzzy emotion toward him or her. Love causes you to do things for that person (or group of people) that are genuinely useful in the beneficial sense.

The Apostle James, speaking about faith, explained the idea this way:  “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James’ example of faith in action is Paul’s definition of love being kind.

Your faith in God, and your love for the people God created, are closely tied together.

–Bob Young
6/18/2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

A Slow-Learned Lesson

We are all broken. To one degree or another, the best among us are broken. We’re all in need of some sort of healing, or growing. We all need to be restored, to be put back together.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about brokenness and restoration. Now I’d like to share something with you, something that I’ve only learned through the long, slow, arduous process of repeated breaking and healing.

It is this.

The magnitude of my suffering has never been in proportion to the magnitude of my misfortune. Instead, the magnitude of my suffering has always been proportional to my brokenness.

Hatred, discouragement, bitterness, selfishness, greed, lack of faith, an unwillingness to forgive – these are some of the attributes of brokenness.

These things magnify, ten-fold and a hundred-fold, the effects of misfortune. Misfortune may be an illness, an automobile accident, a house-rending tornado. All of these things are more devastating if you’re broken.

Sometimes our brokenness is a direct contributor to our misfortune. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, and our brokenness leads to crippling debt, a loveless marriage, a painful betrayal, a messy divorce, or cirrhosis of the liver.

In every case – whether we contribute to our misfortune, or whether it’s caused by circumstances we can’t control – in every case, our degree of brokenness affects both our level of pain and our ability to recover.

Enter God.

I’m going to ask you to do something very hard. I hope you’ll try it.

Instead of appealing to God about your suffering, appeal to him about your brokenness. It is here, in the healing of your brokenness, that your suffering will begin to diminish.

You can approach him again, later, about the suffering. You’ll know when it’s time.

Meanwhile, God can do things in you that you cannot do. He wants to. Why not let him?

–Bob Young
[6/15/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

The Cup That Jesus Drinks

Convincing the church to sell Christianity as a way to achieve benefit, rather than offering Christianity as a way to be a benefit to others, is Satan’s most insidious deception.

Jesus did not die just for you – he died for everyone. Jesus invites you to participate in his death and resurrection. Baptism and Communion aren’t symbols of receiving a crown, being seated on a throne, and being given a mansion. Baptism and Communion are symbols of Suffering, Sacrifice, and Service. They are symbols of our participation with Jesus in the redemption of a world of people who are lost, and dying, and broken.

“I am crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:20)

“Buried with Christ in Baptism…” (Romans 6:4)

“Are you able to drink from this cup I drink?” (Matthew 20:22)

“Drink of it, all of you.” (Matthew 26:27)

“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28)

“Follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Being a servant – that is, following Jesus – isn’t popular or comfortable. Following Jesus won’t make you one of the Cool Kids. To be sure, following Jesus has its blessings, but they are the blessings of satisfaction, not the blessings of luxury. They are the blessings that come from hard work, not the blessings that come from relaxing. Following Jesus is work, then rest – not rest, and more rest. Jesus will reward you richly – but first, following him will cost you everything.

Are you ready for this kind of Christianity?

–Bob Young
[6/13/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

 

How Do You Know Jesus?

I was having a conversation with a very close friend this week. He’s going through a tough time in his life. He has been close to God, in the past, but… not right now, not so much. He asked me a question, and I said, “Well, I know you don’t want to hear my real answer – because you know that my real answer would come out of my religion. But, I can still give you a practical answer. Do you know what he said?

He said, “Actually, I do want you to tell me your real answer. Give me your religious answer. I knew when I asked you that it would be a religious answer, and it’s what I want from you.”

This made my heart leap for joy, of course. Not because I got to express my deepest beliefs, but because I genuinely think that in this answer, my friend will find his greatest peace.

We talked for quite awhile. The conversation was great. Our relationship, which was already solid, was strengthened. Near the end, as we were winding down on the phone and getting ready to end the call, he said, “You know God one way, and I know God another way. It’s not the same for me.”

This reminded me of a parable that Jesus told. Can you think which one? Yes, of course. It’s the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew chapter 25. Jesus told a story about a rich man who was going on a journey. Before he left, he called three of his servants into the room and spoke with them. He gave one of them five talents. This was a measure of silver, used as money. Five talents was a lot of money. He gave the second servant two talents, and to the third servant the rich man gave one talent of silver. He told them to invest the money while he was gone, and see if they could make a profit. The third servant took his one talent and – well – I’ll let him tell it.

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” (Matthew 25:24-25)

It’s a great parable. We see here that different people know Jesus in different ways. Kind of like my friend and I, when he said, “You know God one way, and I know God another way. It’s not the same for me.”

So, I’m curious. How do you know Jesus?

Well, I have the keyboard right now, so I’ll go first.

I know him to be stronger than I have been able to imagine. He is more patient with me than I deserve. His thought aren’t my thoughts, and his ways aren’t my ways, but when I do things his way, my life is better. I have never been able to drive him away, but he’ll keep at a distance if I demand it of him. Then, when I’m ready (finally ready!), he draws close again. He is able to change my heart. He is able to change my mind. He is able to change my attitude. He is able to make me able to forgive those who have hurt me the most. He is able to urge me on when I want to quit. He helps me stand when I’ve fallen, and helps me run when I can only stagger. I am best when I am his, and worst when I am my own.

Would you like to know Jesus like this? It’s easier than you might think, yet harder than anything you’ve ever done. Here is how to know Jesus better. Close your eyes (just kidding, it doesn’t matter!), and say something like, “God, I’m ready to know you as you really are. I don’t know how to meet you, so it’s up to you, but now would be a good time. I’m ready for you, Father.”

Will you do me this kindness? When you meet him, schedule a time with me to tell me about it. Thanks. I’m praying for you, Friend. If you’re reading this, I’m praying for you.

–Bob Young

6/2/2017