In the words of John Mayer, we all self-soothe somehow… me? Music. People. Cooking.
What are yours? When life’s edgy, money’s low, pain comes, or you’re alone.. where do you turn?
We’re all designed to be comforted. I know I need it.
Like today… my ambitious plans for the day were scrapped by a sudden need for rest and peace. After spending my morning with a friend, I found myself needing encouragement this thunderstormy afternoon. But my friend was on an airplane elsewhere.
Far from family and lifelong friends, I have just a few trusted Atlanta friends right now. I’ve met loads of people, but trust takes time. For reasons such as distance and others, sometimes people can’t be there for us… so we learn to turn elsewhere.
Without human comfort, many people seek unhealthy ways to escape pain. This is a false comforter, and it’s meant to take your mind off the present and bring you elsewhere. We call ‘em coping mechanisms. Gone unchecked, our methods of coping become addictions, and the longer we feed them, the more fierce the battle for freedom becomes.
Walking out one’s freedom can be excruciating because an addict has conditioned himself to send pain packing in the form of a bottle, a meal, or a host of other things. He’s never learned to deal with life; he’s just run away. To kick an addiction, he has to re-learn how to face troubles head-on. In recovery, the addict often experiences for the first time emotions he froze out years earlier.
When they break free, many former addicts say they feel like they suddenly ‘came to’, like awakening after a long absence. How can that be? They were living life one day at a time like the rest of the world, so where did they go all those years?
They fled the present. They got so wrapped in the arms of their comforter that they detached from today. They weren’t living their lives at all — they were running all those years.
I’ve done that, too.
Over the years I turned to people, but many didn’t know how to handle what I was going through because they hadn’t personally experienced it, or for others, they had but hadn’t dealt with it. Where once we connected, I now felt a massive void with old friends and family who couldn’t walk with me through my experience.
The more misunderstood and alone I felt, the more I burst to share with someone who could offer comfort or peace or answers. I wanted to share with them the true me, including my story. But to my surprise, I found most people wanted me to pretend my way through the healing process and ‘fake it til you make it’. But hiding persistent pain unraveled me.
To pretend you didn’t walk through pain doesn’t make it any less real, it only isolates you from the present and the people around you. It hinders progress. It encourages you to live on the surface of life, in a shallow contrived personality, not in your true self. It beckons you to hide your heart, not unveil it. So I learned that in order to move forward, I must acknowledge my past without dwelling on it, just simply say This is part of God’s story in my life. He will redeem it.
Our pain is not evil… but leaving people alone in it – that is evil. In the words of Ben Harper:
My eyes burn with unshed tears
My body is weak from so many silent years
Too many people say goodbye before they say hello
Step into the morning and disappear
If we pass by a hurting person roadside, bleeding and broken, we in essence heap dirt on their grave because we’re letting them die. It’s not always a physical death (the Good Samaritan comes to mind); sometimes it’s an emotional or spiritual death. We cannot sit by and watch their hope die, their peace be stolen from them, without a fight. Without helping. There are some things in life people cannot bear alone. Enter friendship :)
Human nature’s knee-jerk reaction is to run from ugly reality and towards shiny happy things, pretending life is always beautiful. Not only do people run from their own personal pain but from yours, too. For this very reason, pain often isolates us. Nothing’s wrong with you for hurting; people just don’t want the reminder. Your pain snaps them back to the present, the one they’ve been fleeing, and leaves them needing comfort.
So now you’re asking- What’s the good news Debbie downer? Hah, I’m glad you did!
The good news is we aren’t alone, ever, even when our closest friends aren’t “getting it”. He is our hiding place in hard times, and Beloved that is not a pretty sentiment; it’s true! As real as the chair you are sitting on is our Father above who watches, sees, and will repay any evil done to you. He redeems pain (Ps 103:4), collects our teardrops (Ps 56:8), and demands payment from the thief, who when apprehended must repay seven times what he stole from you (Prov 6:31). Vengeance is His; He will repay (Rom 12:19)!
There is hope for the addicted. Instead of reaching for what brings us fleeting comfort, let’s reach for Him. Here’s a beautiful Starfield song demonstrating His presence even in our pain:
In the shadows, I can hear Your voice
Singing to me
In the valley, I can hear Your heart
Reaching for me now
And I wait flooded with the strength of Your peace
You’re my defender, the shield of my heart
You are my hiding place
When terror surrounds me, You keep me from harm
You are my hiding place
In the darkness, I can feel Your light
Wrap around me
In my suffering, I can feel Your joy
Rising in me now
And I wait, flooded with the strength of Your peace
Here before You, Jesus
In this place
Here before You now
Face to face
Under the shelter of the Most High
Will I be saved, and will I abide
He is our hiding place.