I was reading Jeremiah when I was struck by the following passage.
Your words were found, and I ate them.
Your words became a delight to me
and the joy of my heart,
for I am called by Your name,
Yahweh God of Hosts.
I never sat with the band of revelers,
and I did not celebrate with them.
Because Your hand was on me, I sat alone,
for You filled me with indignation.
Why has my pain become unending,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
You truly have become like a mirage to me—
water that is not reliable.
Jeremiah 15:16-18 HCSB
There’s a great deal going on here, but I was pierced by two things in particular. First, Jeremiah is telling the Lord just how much joy he’s had in being His. Yahweh is a delight to Jeremiah’s heart. Second, Jeremiah is in great pain because he took God’s side. So why isn’t God taking his side by healing him? Jeremiah didn’t forsake God when he was wounded, but he absolutely took his pain and doubt and anger and bewilderment straight to the One he loved. Why? Because our pain belongs to God.
If our pain belongs to God, why am I always talking?
I once took great satisfaction in sharing not only my pain, but in broadcasting the pain and injustice I’d encountered or learned from the news as well. I even attempted to make it entertaining. There was nothing benign about this either. The spirit behind it was a malevolent hatred of God.
I can see so clearly now that I used my pain and the pain of others to campaign against God. “God is NOT good. Look what He did to me! Look what He’s done to the world!” My tales of woe were an underhanded, cowardly blame-game that invited the listener to pity me in my pain and tried to inflame them with righteous indignation at the uncaring God who let it all happen. Was I really wounded? Yes, but my desire to be free of the pain was not stronger than my anger at being hurt in the first place. I wanted to fight God far more than I wanted to be healed by Him.
Because I have seen so clearly just how vile and septic my hatred and blame of God was, I am very aware when I share my pain with others. I realize that, in fact, I share very little of it any more, but until I read Jeremiah, I didn’t know why exactly. I was beginning to wonder if I was trying to parent myself and keep myself from backsliding into old habits. Instead the Spirit showed me a picture, in Jeremiah, of how God wants us to deal with our pain.
Our pain belongs to God when we do.
Jeremiah gave God and God alone his burgeoning doubt and frustration and suffering. He took his hurt directly to God, and God responded to Jeremiah’s cry with the solution to his pain. Jeremiah belonged to God, and so did his pain. Jesus in Gethsemane is another picture of this. Gethsemane isn’t just about surrender; it’s a picture of what surrender entails: pain. Jesus was in the last stretch of His race, and He begged the Father to spare Him the unspeakable agony that dawn would bring. He brought the anguish of His heart directly to God. And the Father DID respond. Jesus wasn’t spared Calvary, but when the soldiers came for Him, He’d been given the grace to meet them.
I don’t belong to myself anymore—I belong to Jesus. So my pain belongs to God, too. The pain that I share with other people now is usually the tip of the iceberg, because the hidden bulk is for God alone. I reserve the highest of my love and joy for Him, and the lowest and most agonizing pain is His, too. The deepest recesses of my heart and the wildest bliss and exhilaration of my spirit are the most intimate parts of me. And I want to give them to my Lord.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Psalm 51:17 KJV