There is the truth: Blessed – lucky – are those who cry. Blessed are those who are sad, who mourn, who feel the loss of what they love – because they will be held by the One who loves them. There is a strange and aching happiness only the hurting know – for they shall be held. Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way
Don’t.Touch.Me! I was many hours into a difficult lab our and the kind nurse was offering me the only comfort she could afford…to rub my aching back. How was she to know I am one of those odd ducks who shy away from touch when I am in pain? I have spent my life avoiding people when I hurt, I have perfected isolating my aching self into a fine art. Just the other day, a friend wanting to comfort me with a hug, had to chase me around the room, finally trapping me in a corner before she could wrap her arms around me. It would have been hilarious, had it not been so tragic.
I read the words written by Ann Voskamp and I weep on the inside. I weep for the broken girl, still too terrified to allow herself to be held, the little girl desperately uncomfortable when she’s told she is loved. When we are tired, broken, aching and falling apart, the Father wants to do nothing more than hold us. Jesus speaks an invitation to a broken and overburdened humanity in The gospel of Matthew, chapter 11. “So everyone, come to me! Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? The come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.” (verses 28 -30 TPT)
I hear Him speak, yet I still struggle. I writhe, I wriggle, I strain to break free from the loving arms that want nothing more than to hold me until it hurts no more. I read the Psalms over and over and I identify with King David when he cries out to God “How long until you take away this pain in my body and in my soul? Lord, I’m trembling in fear! Turn back death from my door and deliver my life because I know you love and desire me as your very own. I’m so exhausted and worn-out with my weeping. I endure weary, sleepless nights filled with moaning, soaking my pillow with my tears.” (Ps. 6: 3,4,6 TPT)
With David, I silently scream out to God…”HOW LONG?!” and I wonder how much more I can take before the final break, the one that does me in. Like Jesus did out loud, I silently scream “Why have You forsaken me?”. I tell myself, and Him, this was not how it was supposed to be! I want to be rescued out of this nightmare I am living in. Graham Cooke says a profound thing…” what God could prevent by His power, He allows in His wisdom”. Not something that you want to hear when you are trapped between a rock and a hard place. Truth be told, the purpose of our pain is for us to discover something about the character of God that we can learn in no other way.
As I am capturing my thoughts, I am suddenly reminded of my youngest at six weeks old. He suddenly and unexpectedly developed colic. From six o’clock to ten o’clock each evening he would be in terrible pain. We soon settled into a routine of sorts. Just before six I would administer medicine prescribed by the doctor, I would get myself a glass of water and settle into grandma’s rocking chair, while mentality preparing for the onslaught that was soon to follow. How a tiny little boy could generate so much noise escapes me!
The cramps would start and the battle began. I would hold his little body very tight, pressing his cramping stomach into my chest, hoping my body heat would ease some of the pain. I would rub his back and speak soothingly into his little ear, hoping he would find some comfort knowing mummy was right there, feeling every cramp in her heart. He didn’t seem to have any awareness of my presence as he screamed and fought. He would flail his little arms, pump his tiny legs and squirm, trying to get away, indignant and deeply offended at the whole world, it seemed. Eventually we would both be drenched in sweat, him from fighting the pain, me from sitting in it with him. Then, suddenly, he would relax, the wailing would turn to little sobs, he would allow himself to be comforted and eventually he would fall asleep, totally spent.
Isn’t that just what we do when our pain becomes overwhelming? We become indignant at the unfairness of it all. We squirm, we wail, we fight. The world becomes small, a very lonely place. It’s just us and our pain. It is not until we have spent every last drop of energy, when we come to the place where we throw our arms in the air and scream at Him “I.Give.Up‼”” that we become aware that we are held.
It’s when you stop fighting it, Him, and you allow yourself to relax into it, that you feel His everlasting arms cradling you. It’s when you stop screaming out your frustration and distress, that you become aware of His heartbeat, when you hear and feel the rhythm of His breath and you inhale His fragrance. His voice is in your ear, where it’s been all along and the words are loving, soothing, calming – a balm to your troubled soul. That’s when it dawns on you that He’s been there all along. He has never forsaken you.
Father God has a mother’s heart beating in His chest. He nurtures, comforts and loves like only a mother can. He is comfortable sitting with us in our pain, soothing us with His love. David says, in Psalm 7, verse 10a “God, your wrap-around presence is my protection, and my defense”. His wrap-around presence…I like that…the thought of Him, wrapping Himself around me in my darkest hour, insulating me from harm. It’s when we surrender to His arms holding us, when we allow Him to cradle us that our sweaty, worn-out bodies and our troubled souls find rest. Jesus promised us peace that goes beyond human understanding…this is where we discover what that feels like.
Somehow, we bought into a terrible lie…that we must battle. We employ every strategy that seemed to work in the season before or we surrender to the pain and sink into a pit of despair. Either way, it does not work. We add another burden on our weary soul…we tell ourselves to just do something…pray more, fast longer, try to worship through clenched teeth or curl up in a ball in the furthest corner of the room.
It was while I was having a panic attack (yup, totally hyperventilating) over just such a burden – to pray more – put on me by a well-meaning friend, that I heard Father speak. “If you serve a god that puts a burden on you when you are in crises, you need another God”, He said. I did. I needed to rediscover a Father with a mother’s heart. I decided to let go, to allow myself to be held and suddenly, as I became aware of Him, the pain started to lift. I felt it…Peace.
Six o’clock will come again, for me, for you. We will feel the sting, and it will hurt and we will have those moments where all seems lost. But so will ten o’clock come again…where we are intimately aware of His wrap-around presence, our safe place…. held inside the mother’s heart of El Shaddai…the all-breasted One.
“I’ll pour robust well-being into her like a river,
the glory of nations like a river in flood.
You’ll nurse at her breasts,
nestle in her bosom,
and be bounced on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so I’ll comfort you.
You will be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Isaiah 66:12, 13 MSG