At multiple times in life, every one of you reading this will be in agony. The circumstances for each of you may be different, but the feeling will be the same.
I speak from experience.
In agonizing moments, it seems there is nothing that can seemingly offer relief. You feel as if you are falling into a dark abyss and you’re not sure there’s anything or anyone at the bottom who will catch you. If you are a Christian, you probably have it stored in your memory that God is going to catch you because that’s just who God is. But this doesn’t offer immediate peace and tranquility.
The last thing you or I want to feel in these moments is absence—of family, of friends, of love, of community, of a good distraction. But loneliness, and enduring it, dominates everything. You have an entire schedule planned for your day, your weekend, and a wrench is thrown. Now suddenly going to the beach doesn’t sound so fun; instead you’re just going to take a nap (because that’s all you have the energy for) and hope that when your eyes open you have a text message or an Instagram notification. Now, instead of making something delicious and healthy to eat, you choose to find and consume every ounce of chocolate in your kitchen. And it goes on. Your actions are skewed and distracted because your thoughts aren’t following a singular track anymore. Your day no longer consists of trying to get from point A to point B. It’s more about just trying to get to a point even if it’s point Q. And trying to follow the squiggly and circling lines on the map that don’t make sense in order to get there.
Am I painting a picture of chaos? That’s the goal. Because that’s what it feels like to endure agony alone.
I am a huge advocate for community, a strong one at that. One who makes an effort to know you, asks you the tough questions, helps you grow. But I’ve learned and observed something new.
My generation is very into feelings behind actions—doing what feels right, getting a job that feels right, making choices that feel right, enduring changes that feel right, maintaining relationships because they feel right. And it’s also very into the reality that life throws curve balls that mess with us on deep levels—our identities, our morals, our values, our goals, our faith. We’ve learned much about mental health and every professional who has any experience or background in this topic knows experiences must be processed. So if someone is coming out of a traumatic experience, it’s important for that person to let the pain be felt in order to process it and heal from it.
But is this idea of allowing pain and agony and anger to be felt biblical? And if it is, how is it meant to comfort us when we already have strong communities around us comprised of real, living people instead of simple words they left behind for us to read?
I live alone. My closest family members are over an hour away. My best friend is also over an hour away. I have a small number of people I will go to when I’m in internal chaos. They’re the people I’m comfortable around, the ones who have fearlessly broken through every wall I defensively put up, the ones I trust, the ones who are my kindred spirits. Having those people who are similar to me makes the chaos bearable.
But when those people are unavailable, what am I supposed to do? Their lives don’t stop when mine is in chaos. Yes, I have my heavenly Father; I can talk to Him, but when in chaos my thoughts aren’t focused. So I find something one-track to stay my mind on.
I read my Bible.
I have kindred souls in the Bible, books I can read that assure me what I’m feeling is not new, as these writers (Ruth, David, Jeremiah) also experienced the same thing. And they never held back in their conversations with God. Which gives me even more assurance that God wants me to be honest with Him. This means that all the mental health professionals are right who encourage people to feel the full weight of everything traumatic that has happened to them. And even more important, it’s biblical to do so; if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have the honesty found in Psalms and Lamentations.
Both books are filled with agony and pain and sadness and desperation. David, multiple times, cried out to God wanting and demanding to know where He was! David felt alone, and the One whom he thought would be near felt miles and miles away. So he cried out!
Never once does the Bible record God being fed up with David’s shifting emotions, Jeremiah’s mournful laments, Ruth’s grief and desperation. If anything, it brings Him joy to know that His children are being honest about how they feel, what they’re going through. Yes, He already knows and understands your pain (Hebrews 4:15), but He wants your honesty. And when you can’t form the words to tell Him, He has given you His Word filled with accounts from people who encountered the same pain.
So when you’re in chaos as I am on occasion (it seems to happen too often) be comforted in knowing you’re allowed to feel the full weight of your circumstances. And even more important than that, you have a Savior who wants to comfort you and kindred spirits in His Word who have already gone before you. There should never be any shame when the fire is intense and we feel left to bear it alone. Cry out! He’s listening! Don’t be ashamed to ask for someone to listen to you!