We live in a culture that has little to no tolerance for pain. At the slightest tinge of a physical ache, we immediately pop a pill or find some other means to minimize or eradicate the hurt.
I get pretty severe migraine headaches that lead to nausea and vomiting. However, if I take pain medication immediately when my eyesight gets blurry, knowing this is the first sign of an imminent migraine, I can generally minimize or even halt it before it rages.
We are fortunate to live in a culture that has medicine and means available to us that enable us to, generally speaking, live without much physical pain and suffering, unlike many people throughout the world. Yet, I believe this mentality has sadly spilled over into our emotional lives.
We have grown to have little tolerance for emotional pain as well. At the first sign of heartache we long for a means to eradicate or minimize the hurt; we want to numb the pain. But there is no pill we can safely pop at the first sign of emotional turmoil. And since ibuprofen won’t do the trick, we turn to other means: sleeping, entertainment, alcohol, drugs, or eating. Yet in excess, all of these behaviors can be destructive.
What would it mean to allow ourselves to fully feel our emotional aches? Could it be that God wants to communicate with us in our pain, but in seeking to numb it we avoid the work the great Doctor might want to do?
My mom shared with me awhile back about a radio personality who was discussing, controversially I might add, the way we treat our bodies with regard to physical pain and used the analogy of a car. He described it like cruising along in our vehicle when suddenly the engine light starts flashing, indicating that something in the engine needs care. But instead of going to the mechanic to get the car looked at, we simply smash the indicator light, the symptom tipping us off to the root need. Pain is the indicator light.
Though he was describing our physical pains, I sense that our culture is doing the same in our emotional lives—smashing the indicator light (pain) in our hearts that is intended to tip us off to our root need for God Almighty.
Drake and I have worked very hard at being intentional about engaging our deep sorrow and loss, but I have also struggled with efforts to smash my indicator light. My vice in my emotional heartache has been eating. I have regularly reached out for a “treat” when the severe ache overwhelms me, and my body has paid the price for these decisions. But even more so, I presume that some of the root needs of my soul have gone unattended because of this vice.
At the start of the year I decided to stop trying to numb my pain with food. I was doing okay at it for the first couple weeks, but last Thursday I received a call that really bummed me out (indirectly related to something having to do with Jud). I realized the first thing I wanted to do was go to the frozen yogurt shop to get a big cup of yogurt with Almond Roca; my gut reaction was to reach for my “pill”.
But instead of driving to the yogurt shop to try and diminish the pain, I dropped Jessie off with her grandpa and spent some time in solitude. It hurt. It hurt to sit in my raw heartache without anything to numb it, but most importantly, it took me to the foot of the cross, crying out for God.
My pain alerts me to my desperate need for my Savior. I don’t want to circumvent what the Lord wants to do in my heart by smashing my indicator light.