When Pain & Grief Come Knocking

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I just don’t understand . . .

These words barely came out of me between the crying, dry heaving, and pain. 

These last six months have been terrible. A public divorce, a marriage ending that I thought would last forever, becoming a single mom and carrying the emotional, financial, and spiritual load of two kids and a nanny. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. 

I don’t think I’ve said a more true statement. Pain, despair, and hopelessness was indeed not God’s original design for us. We shouldn’t need moxie and grit to persevere in this life. God’s original design was for us to dwell with Him in perfect harmony. But evil entered into the story. Evil marred God’s beautiful and perfect design. 

So here we are, with our divorces, depression, stress, anxiety, betrayal, pain, hopelessness, sadness, addictions, and temptations. We’re doing the best we can to get through it all. 

And isn’t that all we need to do? Our very best? But our very best to do what? I think the only thing God asks of us in this fallen, broken life, is to surrender fully to Him. Through our surrender, God gives us the strength to develop moxie, to faithfully press in to Him in both our joys and struggles. The apostle Paul gave us such a beautiful picture of this in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Paul refers to our weakness as an exchange for God’s power. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Isn’t that so upside down from what’s expected of us in this world? We’re expected to not be weak; we’re expected to boast about the things that make us seem better, faster, stronger . . . perfect. But maybe the way to a beautiful life isn’t perfection at all. Maybe it starts with our surrender. 

When people ask me how I’ve made it through such a hard season of betrayal and brokenness, my answer is simple: “I’ve surrendered everything.” Every morning (well, to be honest, I miss some days) I wake up with my hands open to God and say, “Jesus I give everything and everyone to you. Take over my life because you’re better at it.” 

He is better at it. His response to our “it’s-not-supposed-to-be-this-ways” is simple. He says, “I’ve got a plan for your pain.” I don’t know about you, but there are some days I really want in on the full plan. Like, “God, maybe just let me know how the pain will be redeemed. Okay? Or, how long it’ll last? Can you tell me how long I’ll have to grieve? Or how long I’ll feel this way? Will joy really come in the morning? (Psalm 30:5) Will you actually turn my mourning into dancing (vv. 11-12)? Because I really, really want to believe all of this is true.”

Can I let you in on something? His plans for you and me are good. I know this. I can guarantee it. Because I’ve seen the “goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). In the depths of my deepest pain, He has come down and scooped me and my children into His loving arms. I have seen His goodness. No really, I have. And I am no more or less broken than you or more or less important to God than you. His goodness doesn’t play the favor game; His goodness is for all of us. I promise. 

Now that I’ve given you truth and maybe hope, if you’re in an “it’s not supposed to be this way” season, I want to also give you some practical steps to holding this grief well. Here we go: 

Don’t heal alone. We were not designed to heal alone. Dr. Curt Thompson, our group therapist, has wisely said, “Maybe it’s not at all the grief that’ll take you out, or even the pain, maybe it’ll be trying to hold it all alone.” We need people to hold our arms up when we can’t do it for ourselves. We desperately need people who can be Jesus with skin on, showing us that they won’t (and He won’t) leave the room. 

Welcome the grief. I know, I know. This one is a hard one. But grief is coming, friend. We live in a fallen, broken world and we would be playing pretend if we thought we wouldn’t experience grief and pain. We will. And instead of fighting it and leaking out onto others with our unhealed pain, we get to welcome the grief and the author of goodness to help us hold it well. 

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Prayer is like a “duh” thing to many of us Christians. And I’m afraid because of that posture we’ve watered down its power, and lost our zeal for it, causing us to use it as only a tool instead of a weapon against evil that tried to enter our story. Prayer is our weapon. The greatest one we have. Prayer helps build the faith to trust that God can do the impossible. Prayer parted the Red Sea. It was prayer that slayed Goliath. And it will be prayer that draws God’s rescue towards you. Call on Him, friend. Plead with Him. Be upset with Him. You need Him, and I need Him too. So tell Him. 

I want to tell you that I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for reading a blog named “When Pain & Grief Come Knocking.” It’s clear that you have or are experiencing pain and grief if you’re here. And I want you to know that this is an act of holiness to want to do something about it by reading this. I’m proud of you. But more importantly, so is your God. So take these three steps, my offering to you, and allow the God of goodness to love you through the grief. He won’t leave the room. I promise (Hebrews 13:5).

—Written by
Toni Collier. Used by permission from the author.