Holiday Light: When Real Hurt Collides With A Real Healer

Isn’t it depressing always listening to people’s problems and hearing their heartache?

Knowing I spend much of my time counseling, I'm asked this question frequently enough by others to have given careful thought to how to respond in a way that reflects my heart most honestly. Because although entering into the hurt of others does come with emotional heaviness, as a Believer I make that entrance with the blood-bought privilege of being granted access to the Great Physician. And because the place of suffering always comes with surgical need superseding my skill, I make that entrance fully mindful that I am in possession of a Spirit-sealed invitation to approach that Healer. 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.―  Matthew 11:28-30

Ever since I can remember I've found comfort in interacting with people who allow me access beyond their layered walls of protection. It's a place of refuge for me because it relieves me of my haunting angst about secret strings being pulled, hidden agendas being pushed, and private ambitions being pursued. I find it to be a safe place where there's no bearing of arms, just the baring of a heart; where there's neither tendency to flatter nor temptation to be fake.

I find it restful to interact with people who have surrendered to their insufficiency, who live securely enough in their skin to find no need for power nor feel need for promotion. It's the trait that has always so deeply attracted me to my husband. Not having the skill to show up as anyone but himself, I'm never left wrestling with the unknown. He doesn't unnerve me with compartments of connection created by nimble networking that can lean to both the left and right, to both virtue and vice. It may have caused the surrendering of preferred position at a table or two, but it sure has secured a permanent place at my own. I spend much of my life listening to stories marked by lies and betrayal, and God has been so incredibly kind in gifting me with a best friend who turns my easily depleted bank of trust into a storehouse of gold.

I enjoy lovers of Christ who are too moved by mercy to harbor pretense that the affections, affirmations and admirations of man are enough to satisfy the soul; lovers of the Cross too gripped by grace to herald praise of a shallow prosperity gospel that's unable to survive the deep where dreams are dashed, desires are denied, and death darkens the door.

I'm inspired by those who, being set on a broken road, proudly declare the sufficiency of a Savior while humbly decrying their own— relentless runners in the race whose tear-stained faces are fixated on the glory of their King. Runners like many of those outlined in Tim Keesee's challenging book A Company of Heroes. Heroes like Joni Eareckson Tada. 

For me, suffering is still that jackhammer breaking apart my rocks of resistance every day. It’s still the chisel that God is using to chip away at my self-sufficiency and my self-motivation and my self-consumption. Suffering is still that sheepdog snapping and barking at my heels, driving me down the road to Calvary where otherwise I do not want to go. My human nature, my flesh, does not want to endure hardship like a good soldier or follow Christ’s example or welcome a trial as friend. No, my flesh does not want to rejoice in suffering or be holy as He is holy. But it is at Calvary, at the Cross, where I meet suffering on God’s terms.― Joni Eareckson Tada; Hope. . . The Best of Things

Diving into the pain of others takes us to a place where the wounded are too weary to dance over the superficial and too worn to drivel over the sentimental. It takes us to a place of darkness where even the limelight of admiration exposes itself as too fraudulently dim to merit maneuvering, masquerading or manipulating out of selfish desire to secure it. 

When the weight of this fallen world leaves our squared shoulders and set jaw bowed and broken, we aren't interested in proving anything or pulling strings, pushing agendas, or pursuing ambition. We're just desperate to keep breathing, a desperation intended to force us into being still enough to hear the Physician whispering that we gain our life by losing it.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.― Mark 8:35

When the weight of this sinful world (sin from both within and without) comes crashing down on us, it's a weight intended to buckle our knees in surrender to the REALITY of our need—  a sweet surrender that has us living as REAL people with REAL hurt whose only REAL hope is a REAL Healer.

You will never really understand your heart when things are going well. It is only when things go badly that you can see it truly. And that’s because it is only when suffering comes that you realize who is the true God and what are the false gods of your lives. Only the true God can go with you through that furnace and out to the other side. The other gods will always abandon you in the furnace.― Timothy J. Keller, Counterfeit Gods; The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

Isn't it depressing always listening to people's problems and hearing their heartache?

It would be a spin of the truth to say it's not sometimes physically weighty and often emotionally heavy. But it brings me into communion with real people, and I love that. And what I cherish even more is that it grants me the privilege of being an eyewitness to the collision of real hurt with a real Healer, a collision that causes sparks of love to fly with a fury that turns all that is heavy into all that is light. 

As one who spends much time entering the sorrow of others, I write this to encourage you not to let any fear of the dark prompt any pretense of light. Don't be afraid to dive into the deep, and don't be afraid of being delivered there. For it's the place where grace trains us to live well by dying well. The place where grace trains us to swim FREE style— where we're matured beyond the frenetic doggy paddling of conflicted toddlerhood that keeps us flailing in insecurity while we're feigning self-sufficiency.

It's in the deep where we're coached to set aside our oversized face masks along with childish pride that has us creating commotion to draw attention, craning our neck to seek affirmation, and crying out to secure admiration. It's in the deep where we're coached in the art of controlled breathing that carefully inhales grace and exhales love— where we're coached to calmly put our head down and confidently glide forward for God's glory and not our own. Where we're coached not to view life with a naive optimism that sets hope in what has no possiblity of surviving or satisfying, but to view life through an eternal lens of realism that holds out hope in Christ alone.

Isn't it depressing always listening to people's problems and hearing their heartache?

It can certainly be heavy. But I have a loving Father who knows me better than I know myself, and he's proven he can be wholly trusted to fill me with enough joy to override my sadness and with enough peace to overwhelm my darkness. His timing isn't always mine, but I've learned the importance of being quiet while I wait. I can still find myself lapsing into a panic that has me flailing my arms in insecurity, but God has granted me the freedom of a smooth glide forward enough to beg him for the discipline to calmly put my head down into the water of his Word and slowly breathe in grace.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.—  Pslam 130:5

Isn't it depressing always listening to people's problems and hearing their heartache?

No, because I have a REAL Healer for my REAL hurt and it gifts me to offer REAL help and REAL hope to REAL people. 

The holiday season comes with the twinkling of beautiful and bright light, but for many it also comes with painful and piercing dark. Don't let a sentimental fixation on the happiness of the former find you fearful of the sadness of the latter. Whether this chapter of your life has you or those around you being met with joy or sorrow, let the gift of sweet surrender fill you with a confident compassion that has you diving deep into the love story God's sovereignly written with the ink of his perfection. An ink of love so blood-red that it can at times appear to our eyes to be black. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.― II Corinthians 1: 3-5