Recently, as I was filing some old emails, I came across a few that brought back sad memories. They were emails from people who have moved on and are no longer a part of my daily life. Some moved far away, others changed churches, and some had graduated to glory. As I read the emails it was as if I had been transported back in time. All the pain and sorrow that I had felt months or even years ago came rushing back. I have to admit the intensity wasn’t the same; however, the sadness and disappointment of these dear friends no longer in my life was a source of pain. I am thankful to the Lord for helping me through these various losses and very grateful for His strength to endure even the most trying of circumstances.
Bearing the weight of pain, disappointment, betrayal, or the loss of loved ones takes a toll on the heart. As a pastor, I am amazed how much agony the human heart can endure. I have seen families torn apart by divorce, parents broken and grieved at the death of a child, others shocked that they have been betrayed or deceived by a close friend, and I have seen the disbelief on the face of those being told they have some debilitating disease and only given a short time to live. I have sat with those who are filled with what seems to be deteriorating agony which will eventually lead to their death. It is underneath this crushing pressure of pain that many have said, “I wish I could just stop hurting. I don’t want to feel anything. I just want the pain to go away.”
I can still vividly remember times when I wanted the pain to go away. There were times I wanted to seclude myself from the rest of the world so that I would never hurt again. I didn’t want to love for fear of rejection. I didn’t want to trust for fear of being disappointed. I didn’t want to confide in anyone for fear of being mocked. I just wanted to be protected from any and all pain. Have you ever been there?
It is quite simple to live a life of seclusion; however, what you lose is far too precious. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly 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 round 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.“
I don’t want to be a someone whose heart is as hard as stone. I don’t want to live a life protecting my heart if it means being cold to everyone around me. The pain from rejection, betrayal, and death can be debilitating; however, the reason we hurt so much is because of love. When someone we love departs, for whatever reason, there is great pain, sadness, and loneliness. However, our hearts are only moved by these emotions because we have exchanged so much love with the person who is gone.
I have met with those whose spouse had just passed away. They cried and talked about how lonely life would be without their “better half.” But after a while, something would happen—with tears in their eyes they would smile and start telling stories. They would tell me about their wedding day, the birth of their first child, living over-seas, buying their first home, or about their favorite vacations. By the time they finished we all were laughing and thanking God for the time we had together. These joyous meetings would never have happened if they had closed themselves off from the danger of pain. That kind of joy in the midst of great pain only happens when we have invested ourselves in loving others. You know, loving them like Jesus loved the world and gave Himself up as a sacrifice that we might spend eternity with Him.
So, I guess I am determined to live a life of pain. Pain that comes from loving others with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Pain that comes from building loving relationships that distance, differences, or even death cannot steal the joy of friendship.