When The Pain Doesn’t Make Sense

Have you ever felt like a small shade plant left out in the glaring sun on the hottest day of summer? It dries up. Wilts. Loses its strength and structure as it droops, crying out for any drop of water.

I told a friend once that I felt like I was being dried up and withered by everything going on in my life. The drain of my emotions, and the lies that I listened to in the aftermath of another miscarriage, were sapping my strength. I had no energy left to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

But as soon as the words left my mouth, I remembered the story that Jesus told about the different kinds of seeds and how they represent different experiences that keep us from being fruitful in God. Here is the part of the story that I relate to:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. … Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. …

 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message [about the Kingdom] and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.” Matthew 13:4-6, 20-21

This seed has a major problem. It doesn’t have a strong enough root system to outlast the drought or reach through the rock to pull up enough water to survive.

I know God doesn’t promise to make this life free from pain. Instead, He promises to help us in our need. But I still couldn’t understand why He wasn’t stepping in to fix my problems and help me like I expected… (Read: give me babies and I’ll be happy again and this problem will be solved.)

Obviously, my biggest problem is that I want to have babies and instead I keep getting miscarriages… right? Don’t get me wrong, that is a major problem. But what if I have a deeper problem going on? One that God always is helping me with, and not even the deepest pain in my life can stop Him from helping me with it?

What if the deeper problem is that my roots are shallow, and I don’t have a way to find hope in God in the midst of difficulty?

It’s a problem of not being able to get water, refreshment, sustenance in the dry seasons of the soul.  I have plenty of excuses for why I crumple to the ground and want to give up as soon as another struggle or fear comes across my path. But how often do I recognize that it’s because I’m dry and wilted?

The troubles of life absolutely do sap all the water, hope, and energy from us. I’m not minimizing the problems in life that we face. But what if the deeper problem really is that my roots are shallow, and I don’t have a way to find hope in God in the midst of difficulty? Then the question is: Am I being refilled with the life-giving water from Jesus that can heal and nourish my broken spirit?

Since I’d rather not answer that question right now, it’s easier to just blame my emptiness on the rock that’s underneath my roots. No plant should be expected to put down roots through rock this hard, right?IMG_3596.

Actually, I think it depends on the type of plant. Today, I’m going to look for a plant that’s growing through rock. Or cement. And then thank God that He’s given me these analogies in the world.

” Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

When I just don’t have the energy or strength to deal emotionally with this next hurdle coming up, that’s when I pray and plead for God to grow my roots deeper into His Love. I don’t know how He does it. And I don’t always see what He’s doing. But I know it involves me being obedient. And then, as God keeps me from the things in this life that I thought would satisfy me, I realize that my refreshment and strength is found in God alone, and not dependent on my circumstances or emotions.

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:17

Do I still want babies? Of course! But I know that my deeper need is to be satisfied in God so that no matter what earthquakes come my way in life, my hope is rooted in something deeper- that will not fail, die, or be destroyed. (1 Peter 1:4-7)

When the pain doesn’t make sense, I wonder if I’m looking at the wrong problem and the wrong ultimate goal. God is using everything in my life for my good. (Including those things that are not good.) If my ultimate goal is to have children, then it doesn’t make sense why God hasn’t given me a baby yet. But if my ultimate goal is to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength… then even this loss and grief becomes a tool in the hand of my Gardener, to hack away at the rock that’s stopping me from finding my all-sufficient satisfaction in Jesus.