Hope for the Hurting
I feel betrayed, beaten.
I draw into my shell for protection.
How easily I retreat
to stay untouched.
I wrap myself in pity.
With my body rolled into an
impenetrable ball, my muscles grow
weak, my mind dim.
Lord, untangle me, please.
You were rejected by many.
I know you understand.
Fill my drained body
with energy and courage,
Help me to try again.
Lois M. Ludwig, Seattle, Washington
I’m a wounded soldier. How silly of me! I didn’t expect to get hurt when I picked up the cross to follow my Commander. He warned me that I would have to suffer with Him to be raised; that I would have die before I could truly live.
I didn’t count the cost beforehand; death didn’t even occur to me. Totally disregarding the enemy’s strong arsenal and my orders, I failed to put on the protective armor. With reckless abandon feeling confident that my Commander was fortunate to have me in His troop, I grabbed my slingshot of sincerity and stones of child-like faith rushing headlong to the front-line of battle. Assuming that ministry was a picnic, I was engaged in spiritual civil war.
My first reaction to being “shot” was shock and denial. I ran a few feet before falling helpless and numb. The pain was not as intense as I would have expected. The danger of the wound seemed minimal; hardly life threatening. Besides, the location and cause were embarrassing— imagine telling a physician that you were dumb enough to go to war without your armor!
So, I picked myself up, put on a Band-Aid, and persisted. I managed to fight a few more battles feeling relief when my wound scabbed over a bit. But one day, rampant infection burned and festered refusing to be unheeded! I wanted to mask my emotions, but I was bleeding like someone who had been riddled with a virtual machine gun.
It’s much more difficult, for me, to receive ministry than it is to give it. Suddenly, I’m not in control, but vulnerable and dependent. I hate the trauma of transparency! I don’t like to bleed on the floor and make a mess for someone else to clean up. Even now, with healing well on the way, battle fatigue keeps me very sensitive. If someone inadvertently touches my wound, I burst into tears: it’s so embarrassing. I desire the hurt to disappear quietly and the ghastly scar to fade. Crying, however, is a normal part of healing which God allows for our benefit and considers priceless.
Chuck Swindoll, in his precious book, For Those Who Hurt, says this about tears: “A teardrop on earth summons the King of Heaven. Rather than being ashamed or disappointed, the Lord takes note of our inner friction when hard times are oiled by tears. He turns these situations into moments of tenderness; He never forgets those crises in our lives where tears are shed.” Such comfort!
I see myself as one still on a stretcher. The stretcher has four poles. One is prayer; the second is the healing Word of My Commander; the third is the leave of absence for rest and relaxation (although I want to be active); and the fourth is the love of the fellow soldiers.
The first handle is my prayer journal which I’ve been keeping since I got “shot”. Most of the entries are embarrassing to me now. (In my confusion, I actually turned and started fighting my own army. Some friends were hurt before I was stopped.) It is wonderful to know that I can be completely honest with my Commander and Chief, Jesus. Nothing I say will cause Him to turn His back on me. The prayers of others on my behalf have obviously been answered, also.
The Word, the second handle is probably the most helpful. Really, it was right there all the time; I should not have been surprised. In James 1:2 – 4, J. B. Phillips paraphrased: “When all kinds of trials crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they have come to test your endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men (and women) of mature character . . .”
The third arm of R&R is very humbling. It’s hard to sit on the bench when you were once in the thick of battle. It seems like people are saying, “What’s wrong with you; are you lazy or backsliding?” But when I try to get up too soon, my wound reopens. So I sit and wait, not too patiently or gracefully, I’m afraid. Healing takes time and God gives us refreshment and room to mend our broken hearts.
This leads to the fourth pole, which is the love of my fellow soldiers. Oh, how I need acceptance and touch. I feel so unworthy and rejected, and as I said, my wound is still sensitive. I’m very thankful for faithful friends who are willing to overlook my grouchiness and self-pity and don’t take it personally when I bark and wince. One precious lesson they’ve taught me is what comfort and compassion are. I used to think that people wanted answers for the questions asked in crisis: “Why me?”, “Why now?”, “Why this?” But grief doesn’t respond to pious platitudes, however true they may be, except as healing makes its long procession. Joseph Bayly in “A View from a Hearse” said, “Don’t try to “prove” anything to a survivor. An arm around the shoulder, a firm grip of the hand, a kiss: these are the proofs grief needs, not logical reasoning.”
Hebrews 11, Faiths Hall of Fame is full of stories about real people like you and me who have experienced and, best of all, survived suffering, fear, temptation, loss of friends, family and support, failure and yes; even death. Hebrews 11:13 says they were all “controlled and sustained by their faith, but not having received the tangible fulfillment of [God’s] promises, only having seen it and greeted it form a great distance by faith, and all the while acknowledging and confessing that they were strangers and temporary residents and exiles upon the earth.”
I may not belong in that famous group yet, but I have learned that there is certainly no one with a better offer than the grace of God through Jesus Christ (whom I lean on desperately). Therefore, with Job I say, “Why should I take my flesh in my teeth and put my life in my own hands: though He slay me, yet shall I trust Him”. Although sometimes discouraged, I echo Simon Peter, “To whom shall I go? You alone have the Words of eternal life, and I believe and am sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus Christ was offered to us not only as our Savior, but as a role model. Peter wrote, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21). I think that must have been in the small print. If you are feeling that way now, you are not alone.
As C. S. Lewis said, “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket (safe, dark, motionless, airless) it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
I believed that my needs were ignored, had a pity-party, questioned God, and blame-shifted. That didn’t bother my Commander-and-Chief at all; He wasn’t offended. Instead, He met me where I was and listened patiently. He spoke to me from His written Word and through fellow soldiers. He gave me room and time to adjust to the changes in my life. Like the man in the famous “Footprints” poem, I am so glad to say that when I have only seen one set of footprints in the sand of my life, I know that it is because He has carried me. I would not change the course He has for me because I trust my Savior with the life He has given me. Although still not thrilled with all my circumstances, my position on this Solid Rock is just fine.
What will the outcome of this situation be? Just what the Master promised in the beginning: first, there must be a crucifixion; then a resurrection. He first must bring His warriors to the place of realizing that we cannot accomplish this mission of salvation on our own… He does not share His glory with clay. A. W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
I want to encourage you not to waste your sorrows. Remember, above all, that God loves you and keeps His promises. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is there when the pain is too great for you to believe it. He will not even leave if you tell him to. “For He (god himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up, nor leave you without support [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake you nor let [you] down, (relax my hold on you). Assuredly not! So, we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, I will not be seized with alarm; I will not fear or dread or be terrified. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5:6, Amplified)