And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. - Genesis 21:6
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness... - Psalm 30:11
Something's been weighing on my heart and I think I need to bring a little clarification to one of my posts...
In my On the Essence of Anger and Finding Joy post, I explored the roots of Sarai's and Cain's anger--why they were angry, how they responded in anger, the results of their responses, and how they could've responded in a more positive way. I basically concluded that our response to anger is a choice.
It was a really long post, primarily because, as I was writing it, I was figuring it out myself--or at least, kinda, sorta trying to figure it out.
But it occurred to me that I don't ever want to be flippant in my response to people's hurts and anger. That's one of the things I grew to hate about the Word of Faith movement. All the responses to people's problems seemed so uncaring and flippant: "Praise your pain away!" "Rebuke the devil and he'll flee!" "Love is a choice!" "If you're saved, notify your face!"
Now, don't get me wrong. These statements are actually correct: Love and joy are choices we make, we can praise pain away, and if we resist the devil, he must flee.
But, I guess, sometimes, victory doesn't come overnight. So...what does one do with one's emotions in the mean time? How does one deal with the pain Monday through Sunday, while going to work, going to the grocery store, driving in traffic, making business phone calls, etc.?
I felt I needed to bring clarification because I don't want to be a hypocrite. I don't want to present "easy answers" on my blog, but not know how to practically apply the sometimes mystical answers I present. It's easy for me to say, "Just enjoy God, remain at the feet of Jesus, and everything will be OK"--meanwhile, I'm in the bathroom at my job having mini crying meltdowns and trying not to burst into tears when I have to interact with my coworkers.
Emotional pain is legitimate. And what do you do with your hurting emotions in the mean time?
Cain and Sarai, arguably, had legitimate reasons to be upset: Cain felt like he'd been rejected by the Almighty; he probably felt ashamed, humiliated, and embarrassed before his kid brother, Abel. Sarai endured daily humiliation being unable to become pregnant, in a culture that highly prized children.
Other people have experienced pain I can't even imagine (and, prayerfully, I will never personally experience): I read an article recently about a young soldier. He was in his early twenties, very handsome, and engaged to the woman he loved. When he returned from Afghanistan, he was maimed and horribly disfigured. To her credit, his fiancee still married him, but they divorced a short time later. I thought about what it must be like for an attractive young person to have their entire life altered in a matter of seconds. Yes, we are more than our physical appearances, but that's something you have to deal with and literally face every single day. All the dreams and hopes that you had for the future, suddenly gone!
Models Katie Piper and Lauren Scruggs had somewhat similar experiences. Two flawlessly beautiful women with future careers in modeling and fashion--their lives suddenly and drastically altered.
I personally know rape victims. I can't imagine the nightmare of an experience like that--helpless while someone defiles, abuses, penetrates your body. It's not just physical injury. It leaves deep emotional and psychological scars.
I can go on and on...enduring the loss of a child, the loss of a loving spouse, the loss of a parent, and so on...
So I apologize. I just really wanted to touch on this and didn't want it to seem as though I was responding nonchalantly to the pain of others. "Praising the pain away" is sometimes easier said than done.
So, what do you do in the mean time?
Well, I personally do believe that we can become so filled with God (Eph. 3:19) that we, in fact, do become numb to the pain of this world. The more we spend time in His presence, study His Word, begin to see things the way that He sees them, the more we begin to see the big picture, the less important the things of this world become.
I'm not there yet. I still hurt. I'm still sad sometimes. In fact, what prompted this post was the absolutely seething bitterness and anger I've felt at times recently--today, for example.
The Holy Spirit immediately brought Ephesians 4:31 to my remembrance:
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice...
When I turned to the chapter, I also saw verse 26:
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath...
I don't believe that feeling anger is a sin. What you do with that anger can be a sin. I also believe that pain and anger are two different things.
Anger is usually the result of emotional pain. Cain and Sarai were in emotional pain; they were hurt.
1. We can be angry without sinning.
2. We shouldn't let our anger seethe for days on end.
What do we do with our pain?
Give it to God! And keep giving it to God until it's gone!
One of my favorites scriptures is Psalm 62:8--I couldn't believe how awesome it was when I first saw it:
"Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah."
If you have to cry every single time you pray, do that! If you have to cry every single time you read or listen to the Bible, do that! Don't keep it bottled up inside--that's where the bitterness comes from! You keep holding in that pain and anger, and holding them in, and holding them in. Then your heart starts to become hardened.
The word "bitterness" in Ephesians is "pikria"; one of its meanings is "a bitter root, and so producing a bitter fruit."
Wow!!! Did you see that? No wonder so few Christians truly bear the fruit of the Spirit. Like I said, that pain and anger remain bottled up inside of us for days, weeks, months, years. Its root of bitterness begins to grow deeper and deeper inside of us. Pretty soon, we hate everything and everybody and God can't send them all to hell fast enough as far as we're concerned!
Sarai fared a bit better than Cain. Sarai's name meant "contentious." Can you imagine the emotional healing that Sarah began to experience when God called her "princess" (Gen. 17:15)? This humiliated, barren, bitter, angry woman--she was a princess in God's eyes!
Hannah is another woman who had an awesome bawl fest in the presence of God because of shame and humiliation due to her barrenness (1 Sam. 1). Hannah also seems to have fared better than her rival wife (1 Sam. 2:21).
The psalms are stained with David's tears. He wept and complained all over that book. But he was giving his pain to God.
The Bible also tells us that at various times God's "soul was grieved for the misery of Israel." (Judges 10:16, Exodus 2:24-25). God doesn't change (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). His heart still breaks when our hearts break. He keeps every one of our teardrops in a bottle and writes their number in a book (Psalm 56:8)! Jesus wept with Mary and Martha (John 11:35)! There have been a lot of deep theological interpretations as to why Jesus wept. I simply believe it broke His heart to see their hearts breaking.
Rather than letting pain and anger seethe in our hearts and plant deep roots of bitterness in us, when we pray, we need to offer our broken hearts up to God as a sacrifice (Psalm 51:17, Psalm 34:18). Then He can heal our hearts (Psalm 147:3) and His Holy Spirit can move through us unencumbered.
Yes, joy is a choice. In Jesus' presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)! We can choose to remain angry, in pain, and bitter. Or we can run to Him for healing, comfort, and restoration.
If we have deep-rooted pain in our hearts, if we remain in His presence, pouring our hearts out to Him, giving Him our broken heart as a sacrifice, sowing it like a seed, one day, probably sooner than we think, we will reap the harvest of joy!
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. - Psalm 126:6