Sit with the Pain

This is a tough week.   There are people who are happy.   There are people who are sad.   There are people who are angry and vengeful.  There are people who are scared, scared personally and scared for the nation.

There are people who are absolutely terrified about what this might mean for their children as they grow up.

It has changed social media from social to sociopathic.  

This is not the time and this is not the place for trite answers.   This is not the time for rainbows and unicorns.   This is definitely not the time for death threats and sexual assaults (not that there ever is, but there are reports of both coming in since Tuesday night).

A friend of mine (and I’m not going to use his name because I’m quoting him without permission) wrote on Facebook yesterday…..

“Last week, one of my kids asked, “What are you going to do if Trump wins?” After a moment’s pause, I said, “I’m going to keep trying to make this place look more like the kingdom of God. It’s just going to be a lot harder in some ways.”

I’m back this morning. It’s good, but it’s a lot harder in some ways.”

Recognize that it’s going to be a lot harder.   It already is a lot harder. 

Don’t try to minimize pains or fears.

Sit with their pain.   Sit with them in their sadness or their fear.   Let them know that you are still here.   That you don’t know what to say but you’re still here.

And you’re going to be here, fighting for what’s right, being a voice for the voiceless and sitting with the hurting in their pain. 

Because it’s going to be a lot harder in some ways.   And it’s up to us to stand up for what we believe is right.

And to sit with those who are in pain and let them know they aren’t alone.

We need to show those who are afraid and the rest of the world that one man and the anger he has unleashed do not define this country and do not define our church.

If they do, then may God help us all.

Tom

That Moment

You struggle with it.  I struggle with it.

It’s on the news.   Pictures, stories, arrests, bombs, beheadings, smoke, fear.

It’s on the news.  Grown men insulting each other while insisting they can run the country.

It’s on the news.   Comparisons between political candidates and really really bad men from times gone past.

It’s on the news.  She says she can be President but she can’t keep top secret e-mails top secret.

It’s on the news.  People treating other people like they are “less” because of where they came from and how they look.

It’s not only on the news.   It’s the 33 year old cousin of a friend who died in a farming accident this week.

It’s not only on the news.   It’s the private devastation that ruins people’s lives.

It’s not only on the news.   It’s job losses, it’s medical diagnoses, it’s mental illnesses, it’s financial pain.

It’s not on the news.   Relational struggles.   PTSD.   PTSD from living with PTSD. 

It’s all over and it’s really really hard.

It’s hard to see the good.   You want to see the good but it’s hard to see the good.

And then you show up at church on Good Friday.

And you sit on the floor, not because there aren’t chairs but because it’s a small reminder of the pain that Jesus suffered for us.

And the minister begins to talk.  

And she talks about pain.

And she talks about how this has been a tough year – a tough year for a lot of people and a lot of places.

And at that moment, she reaches in and touches the pain.   She reaches in and shows that God sees our pain.

God gets it.

Jesus gets it.   He understands our pain.   He understands that there is wicked and evil in this world.

But He’s done something about it.   Not just one thing, not just one problem.

He’s taken care of the entire problem.   He’s attacked evil, destroyed it, paid the price.

That’s the moment.   That’s the moment where, with tears running down your face, you know God’s got this. 

And  He’s got that.

And He’s got the thing that feels like it knocked the wind out of your lungs and left you crumpled on the floor.

And He’s got your loved one who is too sick to pray on their own.

And He’s got the lunacy that appears to be afflicting the international and national scene.  

Jesus wept when He went to Lazarus’ tomb.   He knew what He was going to do, He knew that the grief would be short lived.

But He wept. 

He didn’t just try to smooth talk it over and say, “there there, it’s going to be okay.”

Jesus wept at the pain of people in this world.

He weeps about the pain that is happening to you, to me, to those we love.

But He did something and He will make all things new.   Maybe not when we want, maybe not where we want.   But He will.

And that’s the moment where Good Friday really became Good tonight.

TJV

Traveling at the Speed of Pain

I’ve been having a lot of conversations the last couple of weeks with people who are in pain.   Pain from remembering an earthquake in Haiti that happened 6 years ago.   Pain from emotional illnesses.   Pain from relational battle scars.   Pain from losses.   Pain from mourning – mourning the loss of people but also mourning the loss of “what could have been.”   Pain from climbing mountains and finding additional mountains behind those mountains.  Pain from physical illnesses. 

It’s hard.

It’s really hard.   It’s really really hard.

Especially when there are no easy answers.   Or at least very few easy answers.

How do you get over the pain of one of the biggest natural disasters in the history of the world?

Even if you weren’t there, how do you get over the ramifications of, the trauma of it, the changes it made for you and people you care about it?

It’s really beyond words.   

But then our pastor preached on the resurrection of Lazarus and the shortest Bible verse – John 11:35 – “Jesus Wept.”

I’ve always thought that Jesus was crying because he was sad that Mary and Martha and Lazarus had to go through all of “that.”

No, Jesus was weeping because He was angry.   He wasn’t angry at Lazarus, he was angry at evil and angry at death.

Satan was making life hard and painful and Jesus was mad about it.

It’s okay to get mad.

It’s okay to get angry at the evil in the world.

Don’t give up and accept it.   Get mad about it.   Put  your hand in Jesus’s hand and push back.

I can’t repair the damage of the earthquake in Haiti.   At least not for everyone, I can’t.

But I can identify the pain, I can say, “I see your hurt and I will bring you to our father in heaven.”

Name the pain, acknowledge that it’s okay for them to feel that pain.   Help them put their trust in the only one who can truly help them defeat the pain they face.

Oh and be His hands and feet wherever you can.

Tom

An Open Letter to Those Who Write Open Letters

Dear Writer,

You know who you are.   You spend countless hours on the computer……

Pouring out your soul.

Raising hard questions.

Poking at the comfortable realities of middle class life.

Forcing yourself and others to look at the hard questions.

The uncomfortable realities.

The inconsistencies.

The biases.

It’s hard to write those things.  

It takes a lot of energy.

it takes a lot of soul power to hit the “send” button.

Sometimes you hear nothing but crickets when you put it out there.   And then you wonder, are people reading?   Are they listening?

Sometimes you get positive feedback.

Sometimes you get attacked.   And it hurts.

But we hear you.  

And quite often, we don’t like to hear you. 

Because you’re making us think hard about questions we want to ignore.

You’re making us look at things we thought were good and seeing the “other” side of them.

You’re making us uncomfortable.

You’re showing us the pain that others are feeling.   And we don’t like that.

You’re making us look at the neighbor across the street and the neighbor across the ocean.

You’re making us look at things like family and church and sexual orientation in ways we never wanted to before.

So,  writer of the open letter, we hear you.

We don’t like to hear you, but we hear you.

And deep down inside, we know we need to hear you.

So keep hitting that “send” button.

And stay strong and true to  your beliefs.

TJV