I went to my writers’ group this week. I had nothing to share…my writing has been methodic, dry, dull, and shapeless. When I told them how I felt, they said to write about it. So I am.
I prefer being inspired—finding nuggets of truth and beauty and commenting on them. But lately, I’ve seen too much of the dark side of life. Some of it is too dark to describe in detail at this time of year. (I’m supposed to be cheerful, right?) The darkness is what Christ came for: Death. Abuse. Murder. Poverty. Sickness. Despair. Family brokenness. Oppressive sexual evil. Racial enmity. Then there’s the human slaughter in Aleppo and the great divide in our nation.
What do you do with all that pain, hatred and evil?
None of us want to be zombies, moving through life in denial, numbing our pain through drink, drugs, or detachment. But holding onto the pain isn’t an answer either. My shoulders aren’t wide enough. My pockets aren’t deep enough. My love isn’t sturdy enough to carry the pain of this fallen world and its people. I feel things too deeply; it’s hard to handle what I do see.
So I have chosen to compartmentalize my pain. I put it in a box.
It’s a way of handling life, and perhaps its’ an unhealthy way. I’m not really sure, but I do it knowingly, anyway. I consider an issue—something causing me pain or anger—and I let myself feel the emotion. The loss. The evil. Then I pray about it. Fight for it—or against it, often crying as I do. As I do this, I spiritually wrap up the unfixable, the un-healable, the unredeemable, and then I give the whole box of horrors to God.
Normally, that’s what I do.
But I’ve let the box stay in my hands too long. I’ve opened the edge of the box. Repeatedly. I’ve worried over the contents and slammed the box shut, but I haven’t prayed much about the things I see.
Normally, after I’ve prayed about the darkness in the box, I begin to exalt the name of Jesus, concentrating on His attributes. I praise the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then I do “the handoff.” I give the box away to God, visualizing it as I do. I give it to the ONE with the big shoulders and the sturdy heart. I bow my soul, acknowledging both my helplessness and His hope.
But lately I’ve been lazy. Sluggish. A little afraid to open the box all the way and let myself truly see the mess. I don’t want to groan and weep—or permit myself to have an ugly weep-a-thon. I’m fearful I won’t recover from the looking and the praying.
I ran into a friend in Wal-Mart this afternoon, whose daughter is in rehab. Because of this, she is taking care of her grandchild. It’s Christmas. She’s divorced and alone. She struggled not to cry as she told me. I did too.
A member of my writing group lost two loved ones this year: her father and her best friend. She feels it deeply as she’s left with caring for a moody, mean, miserable mother. An old school buddy lost her husband in December last year, and her relationship with her only child is strained. There’s pain. Longing. Loneliness. A daughter is sick. A son is in jail. A family is jobless. A marriage is disintegrating.
I could go on—but I won’t. If you’ve been spared, hold on. If you’re in the midst of it, hold on. If you feel hell’s icy breath on your neck, hold on.
I looked up “hold on” and “stand fast” and was led to the book of Philippians. The church in Philippi was a suffering church. Paul writes to encourage them. He’s trying to equip them for their struggles: Roman persecution, the martyrdom of family members, theft of goods, cruelty, public prostitution, and idol worship.
In the midst of these horrible things, what did Paul tell them to do? Rejoice!
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:4-8
So, perhaps I am handling the pain correctly when I pass it on to God. Maybe thinking about honorable, pure, lovely, and right things is wiser than dwelling on the evil. Maybe prayer, with worship tagged onto the end, is the highest form of admitting our pain and inadequacies while demonstrating our faith and hope. Prayer and thanksgiving won’t make me a zombie—in fact it might prevent spiritual decay.
Giving the box to God is the only solution for most of the issues I see, as I have no power to heal or save. This writers’ group assignment has been helpful. I’ve written something. That was my goal, and that’s good. Maybe it’s not great writing—but it’s honest, and that’s good.
I’ve also been reminded that beneath the suffering there is an everlasting God who longs to reconnect with me as the Box Bearer. He’s the hope of salvation and redemption for all the ugly-mean-nasty junk in the box.
And that’s very, very good.
So, I’m going to finish this night with a good, wet, cry and some intense prayer and worship.
Where are my tissues?
Here’s the box.