I was going through a particular painful migraine last week. I’m talking pain that I have not experienced in recent memory. It’s hard, and exhausting, and very lonely.
I’m a very emotional person. I feel my emotions and other people’s emotions very strongly. The emotions I’ve experienced over the last week have been sadness, anger, helplessness, frustration, love, relief, joy, and happiness. Over and over again, like riding an endless roller coaster.
As strongly as I feel emotions, when I feel the need to cry, for tears, it doesn’t always happen. I suspect this is a result of the medication I have taken for my depression and anxiety for the last 10 years. I can cry, and I do cry. But when I’m in those moments of despair, when I feel helpless and a good cry feels necessary, it’s impossible.
The most likely thing to instigate tears is a good story. I have TV shows and movies that are my go-to when I need a good cleansing. If someone is going through something emotional in a book, it’s most likely I will have tears, even in public.
All of this is to say that this week I cried. Loud, sobbing, gasping tears. And it wasn’t because I was in pain. But it was about my pain.
I’ve been re-reading Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. Pretty much every chapter brings at least a tear, she is an amazing story teller with some profound experiences. This time however it wasn’t the story that made me cry, sob, weep. It was a single sentence.
I was reading along about a disappointing experience she was having with her son, and she writes:
“and then I remembered this basic religious principle that God isn’t there to take aware our suffering or our pain but to fill it with his or her presence…”
Like a fuse going off inside of me, I broke down.
To be clear, I’ve never expected God to take away my pain. I don’t believe that is how God works.I admit for a moment amidst the gasping and snot I cried “but I want you to take it away.”
But what I had been completely overlooking was the fact that God is right there beside me going through this struggle with me. God loves me enough that God is willing to be with me at night when my pain is too intense to sleep. And God cares about me enough to be present during countless doctors, and therapist appointments. More than that God is with all of my family and friends as they support me, encourage me, and cry/laugh/shout with me.
After I had cried myself out, I got up, blew my nose, washed my face, and tried to remember that as lonely as pain is, for no one else can experience it for you, it is also filled with God’s presence.
There are people who think my outlook is too simple, perhaps too positive.
I’m sure there are people who don’t see their suffering this way, who may even blame God for their pain.
And that’s ok. We all go through it in different ways. But next time you are lonely, in pain, struggling, remember God loves you enough too. God will fill your suffering or your pain with God’s presence.