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