“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”
– Joni Eareckson Tada
What makes you cry yourself to sleep? What struggle do you have deep within you hidden by a smiling mask?
Loss of a child? A sin struggle? Depression? Unable to conceive a child? The haunting of your past? What makes you shed a tear when no one else is around?
We all have our tearful moments. We all have those times when a topic is mentioned, and we turn our face or leave the room so no one can see how the dam is about to break. We feel alone. We feel like an outsider as we remember what pricks our hearts and causes the tears to trickle down.
“Just keep trusting God.” Good advice given, but feels more like a homeless man being rejected shelter from the bitter storm. What do we as those in pain and those trying to help. We need to understand how to truly help and how to receive help.
Hold on to What We’ve Got
The pain hurts. Our silence is given as people joke about what we go through even if they have no idea. We look at the happiness of others (genuinely wanting to celebrate), but we feel that stab of pain.
Then, all alone we fall on our bed crying grasping at the blankets finding nothing to hold onto. But, there is something we can grasp to – Hebrews 10:23.
We have a God who says he does everything for our good (Romans 8:28). We have a God who says his grace is enough (II Corinthians 12:9). We have a God who knows the fallen world, knows our tears are a result of a world slaughtered by sin, and yet he is going to create a new heaven and a new earth where tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:1-4).
It is difficult to grasp on to these things (and many others) when all we want to do is flip-off God and yell at him. It is difficult when we want to take our Bibles and rip out the pages, because they seem like trite Hallmark cards.
Guess what? It’s ok. God does not condemn questioning. He does not condemn us being frustrated. Habakkuk questioned God about all the evil in the world (Habakkuk 1:1-3). Hannah wailed to God and was mocked by a priest for her behavior as she cried out for a child (I Samuel 1:9-18).
It is ok to question God. But when words on a page are all we have to cling to, we need to hold so tight that our hands wrinkle those pages and our tears smear the ink.
Take my Hand and We’ll Make it I Swear
There is another thing we can do when we want to just fall down and cry. We need to reach out. We need to reach for the hands of our brothers and sisters. The church is called to be the body and to weep with those who weep (II Corinthians 12:26). This means we are to actually hurt with those who hurt. It is ok to cry in front of our community of believers.
However, when we do it seems all we get is, “Trust God.” Please stop saying this. James 2:15-16 tells us to stop. Telling someone to “Trust God” is the same as saying, “be well off and best wishes,” but not doing a thing. We can all do something to help. What about a listening ear? What about actually holding someone close to you and letting them cry? What about showing affection? What about simply getting them something you know will make them smile? What about just spending time with them doing some random activity?
The church is not made of individuals working on their individual lives. The church is made up of many people living together as a community. You do not have to have all the answers in order to offer your hand and walk side by side with them.
It Doesn’t Make a Difference if We Make it or Not
However, as we deal with our pain and our tears we need to stop one mindset: Image is Everything.
Image is not everything for the Christian. Making it or not is not the goal of the Christian. The goal of the Christian is to be like Christ (Romans 8:29). Our churches should not treat people who are suffering as poor, helpless people in need of pity. Instead, we need to realize that it is not the image, but the end result that matters. Our love for each other helps us fight to that end; not our pushing each other to have an image or be as good as they can be.
Also, if our prayers and suffering and pain is not relieved, we need to continue on. It should not make a difference to the church. If a couple is never able to have children, then the church needs to stop treating them as “having done something wrong.” If a person has been crying out for freedom from an addiction, then the church should not just give them the boot because they do not fit the image the church wants. Christ is the one who we trust, and he is the one who we give our lives to, and he is the one who will present us spotless before the Father (II Timothy 1:12; Jude 24-25).
It does not make a difference if we make it or not. It is not about our success or image. Christ is doing the work. We just need to stand with each other as that work is being accomplished.
Together Living on a Prayer
Bon Jovi’s song Livin’ on a Prayer does have truth to it. When life is falling apart, we need to live on a prayer. We need to hold on to what we got. We need to keep on going; even if we make it or not. We need to take each other’s hands and walk through it together.
Jesus came to be with people; not sit in a pew and be a “5-star Christian.” Jesus was there for the worst times of people’s lives and for the best. But, he continually escaped away to pray and to live on his prayers before the Father. If he is the image we are to be conformed to, then we need to do the same.
Let’s hold on to God’s Word. Let’s give each other our hands and walk with them. Let’s be willing to live on a prayer that engages our whole church.
Our pain and tears cry out for an embrace of God. He’s given that through the church.
If a rock song can perfectly sum up the image of the church, then why are we not living it out? Our hurt is real. Our tears are real. But, we can live on a prayer.