I nearly cried myself to sleep, but I cried myself awake instead. Stretched out on the small square of carpet by the side of my bed, I wept. Why is it that both love and pain seem to coexist so beautifully? I certainly did not have an answer on that particular day, but that question was the start of a reoccurring paradox that brought me through one of the most challenging years of my life.
This past year I was catapulted into learning about the importance of keeping hope alive when my heart has been broken.
Maybe this is my psychology degree speaking, but I think humanity is a very interesting thing to ponder. It is even more fascinating to witness and doubly intriguing to experience. While life has the propensity to hurt, I am beginning to see how pain can bring about tremendous fruit and freedom.
I wish that fruit did not come from pain, but isn’t a baby brought forth through labor? Isn’t a healthy tree pruned?
Once I had space away from the person I loved — who was also the person who hurt me deeply — I found myself at a curious place, somewhere between childhood and adulthood. I knew that this whole experience had the potential to lead me to a breakthrough or push me into a breakdown. I grieved my ignorance. I grieved the ways in which I was wronged. I grieved the ways in which I had been wrong. I even grieved the reality of humanity, but I also began to feel its beauty in a new way. I may have grieved the consequences of sin, but I recognized the wonder of redemption in the very same breath.
We were unable to remain together while we both processed through our individual pain. This led me to question the sweet concoction of grace, forgiveness, redemption, boundaries, love, natural consequences, hurt, pain, sorrow — a soup that I never would have volunteered to try. Yet I tasted it on the daily. Somehow, joy and sorrow can mix much like rum and coke. The grace of God is sufficient. His love never skipped a beat. His kindness toward me never faltered.
Humanity is interesting. I don’t have much of a conclusion for the past year, but I do have a resolution. I resolve to find God’s kindness toward me in the midst of any sorrow that comes my way. This is what keeps hope alive when everything else appears to be failing. His goodness is overwhelming! I have never felt as cared for by God as I do now. I know without a doubt that He loves me and He has good things for me. I know that this circumstance has and will continue to work out for good.
I don’t know what you are going through, but I encourage you to reach out to the Father and look for His kindness toward you. This posture of the heart has the potential to increase your hope when it feels low. This childlike gesture gives way to breakthrough and an experience with an insurmountable amount of grace. Like a child, I began to play a game with God a few months ago. Every time I see a particular car on the road, I think about the person that hurt me and I bless them. I want good things for them, like bluebirds in the springtime and warm hugs. I desire for them to see their dreams come true.
Some days my heart still hurts. But in those moments I see the invitation to either stay in my pain or get out from under it. I get to make a choice, and this is so powerful! We may not have the ability to choose what happens, but we do get to choose how we respond to it.
I knew this journey would be a whirlwind of learning about grace. What I didn’t realize was that the person I would need to extend grace to the most would be myself. My heart was postured toward the other person, but I was ignoring my own heart. This isn’t healthy. We are our own best advocates! I needed to experience the same things I desired to give away. I needed to bless myself. Extend grace toward myself. Love myself. Forgive myself. Encourage myself. My little heart needed some loving. This simple intentionality has changed so much. After all, we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
As my heart continues to heal, it is amazing to see how much more it is freed up to love and desire this same thing for others. I am still living in the midst of both love and pain, but I hold onto my resolution to look for and experience the kindness of God each day.
I started this journey in tears and I continue this journey with tears. The reason for my tears is different, but they are still there. Initially, I cried because I was hurting. Now I often cry because I am amazed by how, in the midst of my pain, I was comforted and deeply loved by the One who will never leave me nor forsake me. His affections and thoughts toward me are constant and they are filled with hope.
My heart feels larger now than it did before. Perhaps this is because He is slowly replacing pieces of my broken heart with His own. I wouldn’t trade this year for anything.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” — Jesus (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)