Those of us who have lived long enough in this world are no strangers to pain. Many of us carry deep, throbbing wounds, gnawing away at our hearts. Guilt, shame, and regret—the mistakes we’ve made and the hurts we’ve suffered continue to cast long shadows over our lives. They can end up dominating us, whether we admit it or not. Facing these issues is difficult—so difficult that we often choose to hide from them and pretend that nothing is wrong. Holding back the anguish, we inch through life, one aching day at a time.
As human beings, we’re wired to avoid pain. We brace ourselves when we fall, we know not to put weight on a swollen ankle, and we find ways to relieve emotional hurts in the same way we naturally avoid physical ones. Pain serves an important purpose of telling us that something is wrong, but trying to block out the hurt by avoiding the problem only makes things worse. Growing up in a troubled home, I too became a master at sweeping painful issues under the rug.
The Root: The Need for Approval and Love
My father and I used to have a very destructive relationship. I was hurt by his constant rejection and abandonment, and masked my feelings by alternating between indifference and anger. I would reject him in an attempt to hurt him back, as if revenge would make me feel better. It took a few (actually several) episodes of intense shouting and screaming, and hours of crying afterwards, before I realized what was wrong. I realized that I had a desperate need for approval and love that my father could not meet, a gaping hole in my heart, the existence of which I had denied for the longest time.
As Christians, we ought to yield our lives to God, especially the parts that are difficult to face up to and deal with—because that is where we need Him most. Jesus came to save us because we needed saving, and that includes helping us face the specters that have haunted us for much of our lives.
We avoid many of our problems because it is too painful to face them, but live in pain nonetheless. It could be rejection we fear, approval we crave, or significance we seek. We allow ourselves to believe that we are okay with things being the way they are, that we can live with the situation. The growing hurt inside only manifests itself in momentary outbursts of frustration or a general sense of insecurity. We refuse to see how trapped we have become and how much we need God’s power to free us.
The Cure: Jesus
When I finally faced the pain and the hunger of my unanswered need, I realized how little I had believed in the sufficiency of God’s love. This realization was not easy, yet it was also liberating. I faced the darkness of my soul, filled with guilt, shame, and regret, and wondered if I was truly worthy of His love. Yet I felt liberated because I stopped expecting my father to meet this need and accepted that I needed to approach the only one who could—Jesus. I was freed because I had allowed my Savior in.
Fight to lay your troubles down at Jesus’ feet, and He will show you that He will be there for you even in at darkest of times. The God of all mercy and love will hold you through the deepest pain and hurt and give you the strength to face your problems.
Christians often use Philippians 4:13 to encourage each other, saying, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” and declare that with God on their side, they can accomplish anything. But perhaps we should include verse 12 as well:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Not just in plenty, in joy and in the light, but even more so in need, in pain, and in darkness—wherever He leads, I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
Here are some recommended readings to help you in facing the giants of fear, guilt, and depression:
When Fear Seems Overwhelming: Finding Courage and Hope
When We Don’t Measure Up: Escaping the Grip of Guilt
When Hope Is Lost: Dealing with Depression
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