I generally believe in rolling with the punches. Through the years, I came to the conclusion that one must have a thick skin and refuse to allow anything to slow one’s pace in this race. My attitude generally was, “Okay, so ABC happened. Well, too bad. God is still on the throne. One way to glorify Him is to dust myself off and keep it moving.”
I recently went through a few months of intense emotional pain. I’m not a big cryer, but this time I wanted to cry. I felt that I needed to, that it would in some way bring relief. But the pain was beyond tears. To the best of my recollection, I have never been in so much pain that I felt the need to fast. This time, however, I felt that if I did not take time to fast, I would wallow in this rut for a long time. Like many of you, I’ve fasted several times, but for other reasons. Even during a period years ago where I was unwell for several weeks, I do not think fasting crossed my mind.
I shared all that just to give you an idea of the intensity of the pain. It was a very difficult period. I am still in the process of healing, but things are much better now. I am truly thankful for the friends who stood by me through it without losing patience or judging me. God has bolstered me through this period and I truly, truly give Him thanks.
One thing I firmly believe, something I have repeated to myself through these months, is that I needed this pain. I have become a better person because of it. I was slowly beginning to become complacent in my walk with God and I needed to “find” Him again. Where there was sin, I had sinned against Him, not any human being and I needed to receive His forgiveness regardless of my ability or inability to access anyone.
I think headstrong women need to go through the kind of pain I experienced. I’m not talking about all types of pain. In this post, I’m referring to the type of pain that comes from our own actions or choices or… how can I say it without making it seem like I’m talking about marriage? Our… longings. Any woman who goes through it will eventually appreciate it because:
1)It reminds her that she won’t always get her way. In other words, pain is a good way to learn patience – with ourselves, with others and even with God’s timing. I’m very stubborn. And that means I’m used to getting what I feel is necessary at the time. If one method does not work, I often begin to calculate a workaround. I’m the type of person who says, “Did that door just slam shut in my face? Alors. Pas de probleme. Time to find a window.” Persistence has worked wonderfully for me in some ways. But when you’re hit with pain that includes another person’s free will, or God’s will, or chastisement that the Lord has decided you must endure, you can do nothing but depend on Him to see you through it. And you learn that sometimes systems, people, things don’t work seamlessly. People don’t always do what we want. And that’s a good thing, because expecting more is setting yourself up for disappointment.
2)It teaches her to deal with situations when she would rather “roll with the punches.” Like I said, I am used to going, “Okay, that didn’t work. Let me try this.” In many ways, this can be a good thing. But I don’t believe it should always be the case. Pain has a way of stopping you in your tracks and causing you to ask, Why didn’t this work? Why do I feel this way? What is it that I am learning about myself; how can I do my part to ensure this doesn’t happen again? How can I address this better if it does? Many women who are in leadership positions don’t tend to have too many people from whom they can get counsel. Pain teaches you to seek out that multitude of counselors where scripture tells us there is safety and be a good steward of those relationships that are like iron that sharpens iron.
3)It forces her to stop and smell the roses. Many times, I thought how terrible this situation was. But God opened and continued to open my eyes to many other things. It’s like the blind man who has no sight, but has sharper senses of hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Or like the saying that reminds us that the happiest smiles are sometimes built on a foundation of the deepest hurts. If we didn’t know failure, would we truly appreciate victory? In the same way, knowing pain is knowing joy. In this world where we’re expected to go-go-go-go, sometimes I think the Lord might throw a spanner in the works just to remind us that we need to take a break and appreciate what He has done for us. I’m learning a lot, particularly about His love and grace and how different His ways are from mine.
4)It causes her – and others – to realize her humanness and God’s “God-ness”. With pain, for me, came shame (how did I end up here?), regret (if only I had done it that way!), and fear (who can I trust with this/where do I go from here?). I sought counsel, and I felt judgment from a few of my friends. The enemy taunted me. I realized my frailty and hopelessness in myself. I had to turn to God. And He alone has helped me. The God who takes us out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, sets our feet upon a solid rock and establishes our goings, was and is on my side. And He was walking with me through it. Even when I tried to fix things on my own, He never stopped loving and holding me. And I would not have known that He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother had He not shone His light onto what would otherwise have been a dark path. Nobody else – definitely not me – could have done this for me.
5)It shows her who her true friends are. I’ve had moments where I have sat with people into the wee hours and listened to their life situations. We all have. But now, I got to be on the other side of things, desperately needing help, prayers, counsel, wisdom. And perhaps some people found it annoyingly needy, or were uncomfortable knowing that I, too, now sought their counsel. I understood what it was to be judged, to have summer friends, to be unable to trust people with information because you never know where it will end up or because you dread the sneer that comes when you mention that you are still in pain. But God also blessed me with people who understood that beyond ministry and work and everything else, was a human being who just needed someone to listen and advise. And how thankful I am for those friends of mine.
6)It strips her of a judgmental attitude. Over the past few months I remembered a few friends of mine. These women told me that they got born again because of extreme pain that they experienced after breakups. All were engaged or very close to marriage and could not bear the pain, so they told the Lord, “If you help me with this, I will serve You for the rest of my life.” I do not know if I can say I judged these friends of mine who are now believers. I do know, however, that I wondered how a man can cause a person this much pain. I must admit found it somewhat trivial and wondered why it kept happening to women. And when I went through my own pain, I realized that to someone else, my earthquake might be a storm in a teacup, and every individual’s pain is personal. There is no pain too big for God to heal or too small to get His attention.
7)It fosters repentance. Pain, when it is the consequence of an action, often causes us to see where we have gone wrong. When pain is the result of reproof, the wise person will be led to repentance, as opposed to self-pity and despair. It can be so intense that it causes you to turn from whatever you did to end up where you are. In my friends’ case, for instance, it included things like no more premarital sex. People have made vows to God because of deep distress – David Himself said he would pay the vows he made to God when he was in trouble (Psalm 66:13-14). Many times, those vows include a return to righteousness.
8)It makes her stronger and better able to deal with life’s circumstances. She now knows that life is not just cotton candy; sometimes the video will pause to buffer itself and sometimes she will need to Refresh Page or hit the Reset button. Experience will render her a wiser judge of circumstances and teach her how to react when things don’t go her way. In other words, pain causes growth.
9)It protects her – and others, by her admonition – from a sinful path. I remember being burnt when I lit a matchstick at my grandma’s house. I stayed away from matches for a while after that. Pain causes us to flinch, to wince, and in so doing, we instinctively draw back. If we did not have pain, we would not know there was a need to withdraw. Do you know what I mean? If I had not sensed that I had burned my finger, it would have stayed on the flame and the burn would have become worse as the flame ended. Pain causes us to say to ourselves – and to others – “Don’t do that, don’t go there. Do it like God said. Don’t try it your way; it hurts.” It also enables us to encourage others, like I was encouraged by many: “God brought me through it. Don’t be discouraged. You’ll be okay.”
10)Pain is evidence that she is a daughter of the King. This is the most touching point of this whole post and I felt the tears come to my eyes as I typed it. Pain is often, if not always, God saying “I love you SO much.” This, again, is in reference to times of chastening/chastisement, and even times of persecution, but also in times when we have not necessarily done nothing wrong but are not getting something we want. Hebrews tells us that whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and He scourges every son He receives. Remember what I shared about Pastor Doug, who said that God takes seriously the fact that you and I are His children? Because God takes my relationship with Him seriously, He will not allow me to go down the wrong path. Because He knows best, He sometimes takes or keeps things away from us, even when we are sure we need them. He sees ahead and knows it all. And in His wisdom, He would rather have us suffer temporary pain and heal us through it, than have us experience ephemeral happiness on a swift path to destruction.
If you’re in pain today, take heart… this, too – yes, even this! – shall surely pass.
*I put that in quotes because I understand the negative connotation the word "headstrong" carries in/with it. For the record, a headstrong woman, by my definition, is not necessarily domineering, insubordinate, or a feminist.