Tag Archives: pain

Veil of Tears 90: Abandoned

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I opened for my beloved, but my beloved had left; he was gone. My heart sank at his departure. I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer.” Song of Solomon 5:6 NIV

One of the hardest facts of life is that people move on. They may feel they’ve outgrown us or we them, or that there is too much distance or difference between us and them for any meaningful continuation of a relationship or friendship. Sometimes of course it is us doing the leaving behind.

Often these partings are the culmination of a slow demise, a difficulty communicating, or they may come after a break of trust. Other times it is a selfish move onto something or someone else who seems better, and we feel left behind, discarded, abandoned and alone, and often broken-hearted.

If we are abandoned and don’t see it coming, we can feel caught totally off-guard. It can feel like a catastrophe, as though the world were coming to an end. If it is the end of a marriage or relationship, it can also feel like a bereavement, as though half of us is missing. Like someone whose partner has died, we may well keep turning around to talk to someone who isn’t there. Devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Some of us are abandoned by parents, either when very young, and put up for adoption, or later by needing to go into care. In the first case we probably don’t find out till later in life and have a great shock and a lot of questions to deal with, and in the latter, it must feel like the world has crumbled under our feet.

Even If we haven’t known any of these greater abandonments, we have surely all been left behind by someone we trusted or thought was our friend. However shallow or high the drop, the fall (not to mention the landing) is desperately hard. But perhaps at some point we can look back and see our abandonments with different eyes. Hindsight and time are great healers of course, so that is easier to do the longer it was ago. Maybe we can see a rescue or a release instead of a desertion. Maybe that relationship, that friendship or bad parenting was crushing us.

If I had not been abandoned myself many years ago, I might never have come to understand that greater and safer relationship in my life that I have with God. What a calamity that would have been! I will never make light of what I suffered in the aftermath of my heartbreak nor what any of us go through when we are cast aside, but I will begin to slowly and circumspectly rejoice that I have received instead a new heart, still scarred, but joined to my Lord, the living loving God of mercy who will never leave or reject me. To rejoice too in relationships that were made stronger in those years when I was at my most broken, and in the new ones that have come since.

It is certainly true that God can use all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose, as Romans 8:28 tells us. And we learn through these painful leavings and partings, whether of lovers or friends, that there is really only one person to be utterly relied upon, who will never leave us or forsake us.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

83: Injustice

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When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” 1 Peter 2:23 NIV

Turning the other cheek, as Jesus counselled us to do, is a difficult teaching for many of us. As a former doormat, I used to let people not just walk all over me, but grind their muddy boots into my soul as well. It took me a long time to realise that this was not what the Lord was recommending. We should not seek out suffering, nor is it wrong to protect ourselves from hurt. Boundaries and self-defence mechanisms are necessary tools for getting through life. But when we are insulted or treated badly, it is our reactions that should mark us out as different.

The reason for this, as I have come to understand it, is that whatever is happening to us in the earthly, we maintain as God’s children, our integrity, which is eternal. Julian of Norwich saw in her understandings from the Lord that our true selves are incorruptible and stay close to God’s breast all the while we are alive. Nothing can touch or harm them in any way that will impact the eternal, the true and manifest wholeness and perfection of them. So although suffering hurts us of course, it cannot hurt that unreachable self whom God keeps close. This is why Paul (or whoever the writer of Hebrews was) said “What can man do to me?” echoing Psalm 56 amongst others. It seems we might answer, “Well, quite a lot, actually,” but when we remember that this same man had been beaten, stoned, jailed, shipwrecked and persecuted for following Christ, we must take these words seriously.

For my own part, I think that any kind of insult or abuse loses its power over us when we bear it with gentleness. So yes, we call injustices what they are, and as far as possible we protect ourselves and others from ill treatment, and from inflicting it. Systematic abuse must be escaped and challenged whenever possible, this righteous anger and action is also part of following Jesus: we stand up for widows, orphans, and speak for the voiceless. But where it is appropriate and we are able to, turning the other cheek can be an effective tool for the gospel. It was certainly when I bore the bullying silently and without redress that my school peers got bored of tormenting me. “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God,” says Peter in his first letter (chapter 2, v 19) and he is talking about the severe injustices borne under slavery.

This bearing with the sorrows of today with quiet dignity because we live in the knowledge of eternity (whilst owning our own wholeness and integrity kept safe within the bosom of our God) is the heart of gospel living to this man who walked closely with Jesus. It might rankle with us today, but there is a deep and precious wisdom and a powerful witness in patient, gentle endurance, especially when paired with forgiveness, and Peter, for one, believed it changed those hurting us.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

28: Feeling Sold Out

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You sold your people for a pittance,

gaining nothing from their sale.” Psalm 44:12

Yesterday we talked about us giving up on false gods, today our scripture is about how it feels when the Living God seems to have given up on us. The psalmist, as is so often the case, goes back and forth from speaking about the Lord’s great love and faithfulness to the awful things that have and are happening to his people, seemingly at God’s hand. Imagine if we sang such words in church about the tragedies that are part of life today! I kind of wish that we did, because although it might not feel theologically correct, it would be an honest heart cry about how harsh life sometimes feels.

Slavery was a huge part of Old Testament life and a captured city or state could expect to have nearly all its inhabitants carted off into a life of slavery or hard labour. Slaves were part of the spoils of war and people were openly sold, as was still the case in Jesus’ time. Slavery still exists of course, though it tends to fly under the radar of western legality where it is no longer acceptable. Evil usually finds a way to perpetuate its most profitable trades. But this verse tells us that God himself sold his people into slavery, and that he did so without even ascribing them any worth. This is no empty accusation, but a deep and heartbroken lament.

This Psalm could have been penned by Job himself, echoing as it does the cry for justice and the innocence of the ones who feel accused. What can we say? There are times in the history of each one of us, as well as in the history of an entire people, when it seems as though God has abandoned us. Let’s be honest, since truth is a powerful prayer. There are times when we feel that God counts us nothing, and would sell us for a trifle. But this is only how it seems.

We can admit too though, if we have the courage to do so, that how something seems and feels can actually matter quite a lot. And we can ask God into the pain we are experiencing at the very same time as we wonder if he has brought this upon us. We can cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as we suffer, and it is not heresy. It is not wickedness. We are allowed to feel pain and to feel abandoned and to question our God. He is so mighty and gracious that he does not hold this against us, but encourages us to speak our hearts, to call out to him.

As Christians we know too, that he has lived out the very same human awfulness and is somehow, mysteriously, living out our suffering with us, even as we cry out for his help. Perhaps at a deep level there is a symbiotic connection of empathy going on at these times, where we are sharing in his suffering, and he in ours. His love becomes the last drop of hope we clench our fists around, and we know even as we feel ourselves fall, that it is somehow all we need, and wholeness is found in the emptiest of places.

“We are brought down to the dust;

our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up and help us;

rescue us because of your unfailing love.”   End of Psalm 44:25-26

 

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

21: Woe is Me!

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Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned: there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.” Micah 7:1 ESV

Are you waiting for something, searching for something, unable to find it? Have you been praying for relief and none comes, that elusive hope dulled and despair taking its place? What a perfect description of such despair this verse in Micah is! All the good grapes are gone and the poor have been in to take the leavings, so that as you arrive there is not one left. As you come along hunting for that one good thing, there is nothing. Everyone else, it seems, has had what you wanted and there is none left for you.

This is how we feel when we are poor, and those around us are buying new things and having holidays. This is how we feel when everyone else has a job and we have been unemployed for a long time; unwanted and marked out for misery. This is how we feel when all our college friends seem to have their next steps and careers all worked out and we are drifting in a fog of unknowing. This is how we feel when a friend is having her fourth child and none came along for us, and we feel this despite our joy for them. It is not jealousy, but it is like we are the opposite of special. Like we and all our hopes have been cast off into the dust, and not one of the things we were hoping for have shown up.

Unkind people will call such feelings a “pity party”, and tell us to “pull our socks up” and that we have “first world problems”, or that there are “plenty of people worse off” than we are. Oh, how I loathe those phrases! Sometimes, especially with good reason or when we are low or suffering from depression, it is good and healthy and okay to say, “Woe is me!” The Psalms are absolutely full of such honesty. God values it and hears us and he does not tell us to shut up and count our blessings or pull ourselves together. He is all compassion and understanding. At such times I am sure he longs to gather us to himself “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” (Matthew 23:37 partial, NIV).

Here’s a little thing I have learned over some difficult decades: suffering is personal. It is not relative. It cannot be compared. My pain is my pain and yours is yours. There is no measuring stick. You feel what you feel. And today the love of my life is incredibly down and he is hurting, and nothing I can do can make it better, and our finances just got dealt another unkind blow, and so I say, “Woe is me!” and it’s okay. Such outbursts need to be short-lived of course, else they can fester and lead to self-pity, with manifestations across the spectrum of pride, from entitlement to self-loathing.   But self-compassion, cried out and genuine, can be related to as good emotional sense and spiritual honesty, leading us back to our own helplessness and to the feet of the source of all true help. And God hears, and he hurts with us, and his company is good to have at such a time.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com