Ocean tides have a profound healing effect on the trauma of my childhood. This is especially true in the afternoon when waves nudge and inch farther into dry sand but eventually they have to obey centrifugal force and God. The mighty expanse of ocean has a line it cannot cross. It can go only this far and no farther.
Pain is like that, too.
Physical bruises, relationship riptides, awful choices, terrible memories–there’s a line these things cannot cross. They can damage our bodies and ravage our emotions, but they cannot get all the way into our soul. Only God can go that deep. When we meet Him there, pain has a line it cannot cross.
It’s easier to succumb to pain and that’s why people do. We wear hand-me-down dysfunction, become swallowed up by trauma, or we take our pound of flesh, which, of course, only leads to more pain. Then we numb it, fling it and maybe even think we need it to survive. The problem of God in all of this is enormous.
“How could a good God allow suffering?” we wonder. This agonizing, authentic question is the high-level version of our haunting, personal questions: Why didn’t He stop my rapist? Why did He allow my spine to be severed? Why did He allow my child to die? My husband to leave? My business partner to embezzle?
More brilliant minds than mine have wrestled these alligators to the ground, but I do know this: Worshipping a God who can stop pain but doesn’t is a sacrifice that not even the angels can offer. Only we can praise Him when it’s hard. Scripture talks about bringing a sacrifice of praise and I think this is it.
Sacrifice is a tall order if we’re already laid low, but it’s impossible to claim health and peace if our hands are holding onto resentment and damage. We can’t praise God while keeping Him at arm’s length. We can’t chart healthy futures if we’re clinging to unhealthy pasts. To grab an abundant Christian life, we have to go hands-free.
When I write “Go get your life,” it’s not a cute tagline. I really mean it. It takes guts and trust and all sorts of emptying. You may feel like a speck of sand staring down the deep fury of an ocean. But if you’re on the right side of “this far and no farther,” you’re going to be okay.
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