If you’ve spent any time around young children you’ve seen “the moment.” Something happens, a young child perhaps just beginning to walk or maybe a few years older and able to race around the yard, trips on a toy or falls off of a swing. There is this moment when they look to see how Mom or Dad are reacting to their tumble. It’s almost like they’re asking “am I hurt or am I ok?” They can be perfectly fine but if someone reacts with concern they cry or if someone (seeing that they are not really hurt) reacts with laughter or celebration they smile and go about their business. They haven’t yet learned to interpret pain.
Pain is a part of our everyday lives. It’s like the red warning light on our dashboard telling us that something is wrong although we may not understand what that something is. Pain can be dull, sharp, searing, throbbing, aching, chronic, acute, or unbearable. We do everything we can to avoid pain. Quickly pulling back when we feel something sharp or hot. We take medicines or apply other methods to alleviate pain. At some point, we may seek medical help because the pain is either severe or won’t go away. One of the first questions the Doctor asks is, “Where does it hurt?” They then proceed to make our pain worse. Poking and prodding to determine to cause of the pain. “Does this hurt?” “How about now?” At some point, they arrive at a conclusion and prescribe a course of action to promote healing. Sometimes their actions provoke even more pain like the shot of painkiller that seems to sting worse than the cut that needs stitches, or the setting of broken bones, or the painful aftermath of surgery.
God likewise uses the aches within our souls to bring about healing. Like physical pain, heartache takes on many different forms. The sharp pain of angry outbursts. The bitter ache of unforgiveness. The searing pain of loss and grief. The throbbing pain of injustice, The chronic pain of rejection. The unbearable pain of sin and shame. We try to avoid the pain, pulling back from certain people, avoiding certain situations. Or we try to put the pain on others, make them suffer a bit so we don’t feel as bad. It’s almost like hurting our thumb so we can ignore our headache. But the aches in our soul are trying to tell us something which we haven’t learn how to interpret. That something is wrong, something is broken, something needs healing. We may think it is all someone else’s fault, and maybe it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that the pain, the hurt, the offense, the heartache, the broken part is inside of us. While the cause may be external, healing always starts inside of us.
A few years ago my grandson fell off of a teeter-totter and broke his arm. The doctor didn’t rush out to the playground and dismantle the teeter-totter. Instead, he did what he needed to do to promote the healing of Asher’s broken arm. Likewise, when we bring our heartaches to God He doesn’t rush out and stop the other person from causing pain. He doesn’t punish someone else so that we feel better. Instead, He seeks to bring healing to our own hearts and asks “where does it hurt?” Often God will, like a doctor, provoke our pain to promote our healing by providing painful instances in our lives to help us see the brokenness of our own hearts and souls. Instead of ignoring, avoiding, or burying our heartaches, sin, shame, anger, and rejection we need to bring them before God. The Psalmist wrote, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.” (Psalm 32:3–5, NASB95) A few verses later the same Psalmist concludes, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10–11, NASB95) This doesn’t mean that everything will be right with the world, but that everything will be right inside our hearts.
The next time heartache comes your way. The next time you feel the pain of rejection or offense. The next time anger burns because of someone’s words or deeds. The next time you feel the ache of sin and shame. The next time you find yourself avoiding someone because of the pain they cause. Ask God to show you the broken place in our own heart that needs His healing.