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.

How You Can Know God

It doesn’t have to be difficult to understand Jesus. Or, maybe I should say, it doesn’t have to be difficult to know Jesus – to really know him.

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 10:21-22, ESV)

I’ll get right to the point. We don’t decipher truth about God by reading the Bible, or by analyzing it closely. You cannot fathom God. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many Bible commentaries you read, no matter if you study Greek and Hebrew so you can read the Bible in its original languages – no matter, no matter, no matter – you’ll never figure him out.

Did you catch what Jesus said in Luke 10? God hides, and God reveals. And the revelation of God is so simple that a child can understand, so even Pastors can’t count on their seminary degrees to help them grasp our Father and Creator.

During Jesus’ days on Earth as a man, the Pharisees used the law – that is, the written Word of God – as the source of knowledge. It was everything. If you could prove it from the scriptures, it was true, and if it disagreed with the scriptures, it was false.

But the Pharisees were wrong about so many things. Jesus showed them that their infallible proofs were very, very fallible.

Today, many Christians are being taught to think just like the Pharisees. In so many ways, nothing has changed. If a Bible teacher can apply a convincing logical proof to the grammar and syntax of a Bible passage, then that logical proof, rather than the words of Jesus, becomes their divine, infallible, revelation.

Here is how you know they’re wrong: little children can’t understand what they’re saying. Jesus said, “You [God] have revealed these things to little children.”

Here’s what Jesus said: “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

So, how can you know God? By being the kind of person that Jesus chooses to reveal him to.

And how can you be the kind of person that Jesus chooses to reveal God to? By deciding to follow Jesus. Jesus reveals God to his followers.

Be warned, though. Be ready for some push-back. Christians who put the Bible ahead of Jesus will disagree with you. Or, more accurately, they disagree with Jesus, because he hasn’t chosen to reveal himself, or the Father, to them.

When you read the Bible, don’t analyze it in order to prove your comfortable preconceptions. Don’t read it in order to reinforce your sense of holiness. Instead, look at Jesus. See his compassion, his patience, his generosity, his love. Then – follow Jesus. It’s simple, isn’t it? Simple, and wise.

–Bob Young
[3/10/2017]

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung