We Wear Thorns Too: Addressing Complications within the Christian Approach to Pain

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.Philippians 1:21-23

 

crown-of-thorns-and-gold-crop

“To die is gain”… A phrase that consistently echoes through the minds of those Christians who struggle with life, coping, and depression.

EVERYONE goes through things. And more often than not, we are faced with problems regarding learning how to deal with these things, even in Christian communities and  Christian homes. Part of why this is so difficult to handle is because when we seek help people throw the book at us and merely tell us to “Just pray about it.”

Sometimes prayer becomes crying, sitting in silence for hours, looking at some scriptures hoping that it will all just go away. We ask God to remove our pain but we don’t know how to deal with it.  And sometimes we choose to deny the situation.  I’ve been there. We chalk it up to just another “It doesn’t matter,” “Whatever,” and “I’ll get over it eventually.” .. But when we don’t actually deal with the problem,.it tends to get worse. We smoothen it out, cover it up, and sometimes fall back to it after we think were “healed”.

It is VERY important to developing HEALTHY coping mechanisms. However, as a society, we choose to always give these illusions, put on facades, and pretend that everything is okay, when in reality, it’s not. We’re not okay. We’re trying to be and don’t know how. We try evasion, submersion, distraction, and anything in between. Prayer is one ay to cope. Psychological treatment is another. Don’t be afraid to use it.  It’s perfectly normal. God understands that mental health is important. God understands that sometimes our emotions overwhelm us.

With that being said, one way we try to cope with things is by seeking a place near God’s feet. And there’s a peace found there but I think it’s time we also address the loneliness found there as well.

There have been plenty of times where I felt that I just didn’t fit in. Society, in general, was a no go. That alone would sometimes put me in a dark place. At times very common and realistic situations would dishearten me. The mere harsh realities of life so to speak… The general state of mankind, humankind, would take me to a place where I wanted to crawl under a rock. I had friends who I could not get on the same page with.  I had guys walk away because of who I decided to be, what standards I decided to set, the lifestyle I decided to live, or for no explainable reason at all.  I was the odd man out way more often than I wanted to be. But nonetheless there were times where I would attempt to compromise. I would get bored. I would get lonely. I would get frustrated. Upset. And  things would backfire on me. I was eating at the table with people who could not pray for me. I was giving my time to people who I knew where just going to waste it. At times I would engage with people just because I wanted to be there for them… I wanted to be the person other people could lean on…. But I was also looking for someone to lean on.. Because when you close that bible and you amen the end of those prayers, you still have to address life. You have to apply what knowledge God has given you and fight your daily struggles.

Now, don’t get me wrong… It is good to just give. It is good to be there for people. BUT a line must be drawn. (Think of the story of the 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins. See Matthew 25.) If you give to those who are foolish, you may miss your own blessings (in this case, the return of the bridegroom). There are times when we make sacrifices for people who had the opportunity to prepare themselves but neglected to. We give to those who are in need and dim our own light for the sake of others. It is in these moments where we must learn discernment before lending that “helping hand”.

Furthermore, God has no physical body on Earth. The body of Christ is composed of the followers of Christ… People are God’s hands, his heart, his feet. We move on his accord to touch the heart of others with his heart…  God may be using you to speak to people. He may use you to be that “lesson”.. He may want you to give, to be someone’s support system.. But do NOT neglect that element of discernment. I know at times it seems hard. Especially for those of us who give until we’re empty. Make sure you pray bout your relationships with people. ALL of them. Friendships, romantic relationships, even how much you should give or help your family.

But nonetheless my relationships with people aren’t always the best. There have been countless times where I have been called old fashioned, boring, prude, childish, brain washed, archaic, and the like just for deciding to follow the word that so many people claimed to follow as well.. And sometimes this takes a toll on me.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” – 1 Peter 4:14
Not to mention I was also a little too common for the holy rollers and too religious for the street. I wasn’t wearing dresses to my ankles, head scarfs, or rocking ” WWJD” bracelets everyday. I wasn’t into faking like I caught the holy ghost, Madea movies, or condemning every stranger walking God’s green Earth… I wasn’t into preaching false religious philosophy, telling people they were all going to hell for going to church on Sunday instead of Saturday, or singing Hillsong in the middle of Buffalo Wild Wings..  I wasn’t always happy. Consistent smiling made me feel uneasy. And maybe a part of that is because I haven’t found that inner joy others may have.
I found a seat on the “Say that pastor!” church pew wasn’t for me.. I  listened to secular music and my tongue wasn’t always “tame”… Sometimes I found humor in things others didn’t.. I didn’t always “do the right thing” and wasn’t into acting like I did. Some days I wore low cut tanks and short shorts.  I found no pride in entitlement or church class systems. I wasn’t legalistic and found the best of God was not in religion but in relationship…So I kept going to the Father’s feet.

So there I was .. reading my bible.. and finding more and more that… “To die is gain”.. Things would happen and I would turn to my bible. And ultimately, an appeal for death grew. I wanted to disappear. If I could have been taken up into the pearly gates, I would have gladly went. I didn’t feel true comfort around people and my hard work, my prayer, serving, following God’s word, etc… psh, that seemed to reap NOTHING for me. It wasn’t about not feeling loved by family or friends.. In fact, the only place I felt somewhat comfortable was with my family. But trust me, third wheeling your parents every Friday night gets old. Turning down the turn up offers gets old. Netflix gets old. Writing gets old. Volunteering gets old. And it gets old especially when you’re doing this to avoid dealing with something else.

I felt like I was giving and giving but consistently coming up empty.  Pouring myself into this cause, this person, this book, this painting, this social media, this organization, this workout plan.. and it was all fun in the moment. I learned a lot and was very happy while doing much of it.. But I was not happy when I came back to my individual reality… And it wasn’t because I did not “love myself”. And it wasn’t that my happiness was based on the lack of friendship or losing relationships. Although that played a part too, but I was sick of being “strong” all the time. I didn’t feel “valued” and felt that the value I attained was not something valued by others. Although not truly concerned about what others valued I was consequently concerned of my placement in the world. I wanted someone to be there for me… I did not want to be the advice giver, the teacher, the lesson. I wanted someone to help me, teach me, advise me. Most of all someone I too could learn from and would help me see the flaws I didn’t see within myself.

Sometimes I would get the ” Why you worried about that lecture?! You have x,y,z! Be grateful!” or “Lets go out! That’ll get your mind off it.”  And neither would help me. When it came to friends I could talk to, I did NOT want to burden them with any of my seemingly frivolous trials. People also have their individual lives. Some of my friends were in school, had jobs, kids, and/or relationships, etc. I didn’t want to be mocked for dissatisfaction because to other people, I had it all together. I didn’t want to release any negative energy to anyone else either. Material things, accomplishments, none of that impressed me. I was still dissatisfied for several reasons. So I backed away from people even more… and pushed more into God even though it hurt at times.

I felt like it would be easier to give in to society. Drink my problems away, have sex, use people, smoke, go out, and thrive off the attention of others. But I knew I wouldn’t be happy there. And through all of this somehow people idolized me… Which is still one awkward concept for me to get my head around.  I was not “always strong”.. I didn’t always feel smart.. I was sad way more often than I wanted to be… and there were times I would be in rooms full of people and still felt alone. Times where I wanted to drop out of law school… Times where I didn’t eat for days… and other times where I would eat any comfort food I could get my hands on.. I was frustrated.. I felt like a hamster on a wheel … I was feeling MUCH like Job…

I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. My bitter soul must complain. Am I a sea monster or a dragon that you must place me under guard? I think, ‘My bed will comfort me, and sleep will ease my misery,’ but then you shatter me with dreams and terrify me with visions. I would rather be strangled – rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and I don’t want to go on living….”Job 7:11-16

I wanted to sleep my problems away. Sure enough, I found no comfort there. I would dream about the same things I was running from. I would wake up frustrated. Wishing I could even stop myself from dreaming…  I contemplated the consequences of what would happen if I wasn’t alive… Thinking if somehow I died I’d be happy because my reward is in heaven, right? I’ll be with God then right? I’ll gain what I’ve been waiting for, right? I was essentially feeling like, God was enough but people.. people were TOO much. People did not value me. But I knew God did. I knew I did, but  I was losing motivation.  My lack of motivation made me unconcerned. It created seeds of carelessness. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I thought about driving away and never coming back. I wanted to be lost. Swallowed by the sea. I wished the tiles of my bedroom floor could cocoon me… Something. Anything…Trying to be a “good girl” was NOT paying off. Being nice to people was NOT paying off. My prayer seemed futile. I WAS TIRED. Tired of hearing in due time you will reap.. but still trying to keep myself motivated with those same words. Trying to find contentment.

And although I wish I could tell you many sweet words of how these feelings just go away. I can’t. These are things you do have to pray about. These things require divine intervention and patience. Although we may not understand what God is doing or why.. we have to trust his plan.. But this is where the complications of glory in death render its head…

To overcome these types of things you have to find the LIFE in your LIFE. You have to find the light, your purpose, your reason for breathing, giving, and living.. And getting into heaven should be on your list of priorities but mere death should not.

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:9-10  

It is important to see life on Earth as purposeful existence. As Christians, we often view death as the holy grail. We often place so much emphasis on death that we forget to live. We sometimes idolize the cross. REMEMBER the cross. Remember what it stands for… but the cross is a moment in time. Death is a moment in time . Jesus had a LIFE on Earth. He was not merely a shell occupying space. Jesus worked. He performed miracles. He brought glory to his Father’s kingdom. He loved people. He was betrayed, yet he loved them anyway. He learned to forgive. He was tempted. But he persevered. This too is your duty.

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Romans 8:17

I prayed to be taken.. yet I still remained. I would even dream of angels which would come to me reaffirm the purpose of my existence.  Your existence is purposeful. Your trials, pains, transgressions, troubles.. They are purposeful… And I won’t lie to you. Sometimes I do want the “fullness of his glory” without the sweat. But I have to remember that GOD suffered for me. He wore a crown of thorns for me.. If I am to share in his glory, I am also to share in his suffering.. We wear crowns too. We are his sons and daughters. These crowns are not mere ornaments. They aren’t always covered in diamonds, drenched in gold, painted with heavenly colors. But they are parts of a greater process.  This is the meaning of being crucified with Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. –Galatians 2:20

When you die to your flesh, when you die to the world… You pick up your crown of thorns. God makes room for you in his book of life. So wear your grown proudly. Wear your pain proudly.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: I you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.” Zechariah 3:7

Heaven is the goal but enjoy your life. You have to shift from the glory in death mindset to an investment in eternity mindset.  Life is not something to be endured. But something to be valued. Give. Pour into people. But make sure you do not let your well run dry. You do not exist to merely give. This is something I have had to learn. Even if the fruits of your labor do not seem to be manifesting, push into him. Seek God. Even if you feel alone, with him you are never alone. There is a peace found in God that cannot be found in people. Remember this. Remember that he is an overflowing well of life. He designed you. Remember he designed you with a purpose for your existence. Trust his plan for you.

“This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.  Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”Ecclesiastes 5- 18:20

 

With love,

 

Sky.

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