When Life Hurts, You’re Not Alone

Woman staring out a window.

There is no pain quite as deep and dark as that which is experienced in isolation. You may know this first hand. Hopefully, you’ve also experienced the converse–the strength and encouragement of having someone to lean on when it felt as if your legs might soon give way. As my guest, Julie Holmquist shares today, God doesn’t want any of us to feel alone. He wants us vitally and intimately connected, in good times but especially in the hard.

You Are Not Alone

By Julie Holmquist

Having just had my twins prematurely by an emergency c-section and unable to nurse them, I felt painfully alone. With hormones raging and the chaos of being a first-time mom, I frantically tried to find someone who was farther along in this journey to help me navigate the twists and turns; however, there was no one to be found. Often I cried myself to sleep asking God to send someone who would “get me!”

No one in my family or close circle of friends ever had twins, preemies or a c-section. To top it off, it seemed like everyone else was able to nurse their babies.

There was no one to share my struggle with.

Pain Isolates Us

Pain doesn’t discriminate between gender, socioeconomic status or skin color. It doesn’t adhere to geographical borders, political ideologies, or classes of society. It’s a common thread we all share.

Why is it, then, that we so often feel isolated like no one truly knows or even cares about what we’re going through? 

What Does Scripture Say About Pain?

The Bible promises us that He works everything out for our good (Romans 8:28), in heaven there will be no more crying (Revelation 21:4) and weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

But what does the Bible say about pain when we’re in the middle of the mess?

Two women sitting together.Shared Pain is Diminished Pain.

John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept” (NIV*). It is the shortest verse of the Bible, yet those two words pack such a powerful reminder that, just as Jesus physically entered our world, He also entered our pain.

John 11 tells us the story of the death of a man named Lazarus, Jesus’ friend. When Jesus arrived, He knew He was about to unleash resurrection power and Lazarus would live again. Yet when He saw Mary and Martha grieving and weeping over the loss of their brother, He was moved to tears and wept right alongside them.

Jesus didn’t scold them saying, “Get over it! Stop crying! Don’t you know what I am about to do?” Instead, He entered their pain and wept with them. He knew death would not have the final say in Lazarus’ life at that moment. Perhaps He wept simply because His friends were weeping.

When Jesus got to the tomb, He told them to roll away the stone from the tomb’s entrance. Martha, Lazarus’ sister, warned Him that Lazarus had been dead for four days, and certainly it would stink if they did. Jesus then said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV*). They proceeded to do ask Christ had asked. Then Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, and commanded Lazarus to come out. Still bound in his grave clothes, Lazarus exited the tomb. Jesus then instructed those who were there to take off Lazarus’ grave clothes and to let him go.

Jesus loved them enough to meet them where they were but then rewrote their story through grace.

John 15:15 tells us that Jesus calls us friends. Romans 12:15 says that we are to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to weep with those who are weeping. If you’re going through hard times, you aren’t alone. Jesus hurts because you hurt. He’s not a passive observer sitting on the sidelines watching things happen to you. He’s a very real and active participant in your life.

So when your husband cannot understand what you are going through, your best friend is super busy, and your family doesn’t know what to say, know: You aren’t alone in your struggle! God is closer than you think and always with you. And if by chance He sends someone your way who can share in your struggle, you’ll know He sent them.

Let’s Talk About This!

There’s a difference between empathy and sympathy. Jesus doesn’t feel sorry for us, but He does feel what we feel. He empathizes with us in a friend’s text at just the right moment, a song that stirs our hearts, or a friend who’s traveled the same hard road you have. I want to encourage you in the midst of a struggle to first turn to Him because He cares for you. Second, I ask God to send some people in your path who may have experienced something similar and can speak to your pain. You are not alone.

Is there an area in your life you feel alone? Where can you see Jesus empathizing with you?

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Get to Know Julie

Julie Holmquist is an author who currently writes on her blog at Stuff of Heaven and is also a contributing author for Devotableapp.com. Julie has written and produced video devotionals as well. She graduated from Christ for the Nations Bible school in Dallas, TX and holds an associates degree in practical theology. She enjoys all things personality and has probably taken every personality test there is (ENTP and an Enneagram 7w8). Julie loves the body of Christ (the Church) and smiles BIG when people are passionate about walking in their God-given callings and giftings–whatever they may be.

She and her husband have four sons and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC from Colorado Springs, CO.

You can find Julie online at her blog, Stuff of Heaven, follow her on Instagram at Stuff of Heaven and at Twitter at Stuff of Heaven,and connect with her on Facebook at Stuff of Heaven (Julie Holmquist)

Additional Resources:

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The Dangers of Pain Avoidance

danger signPain avoidance can lead to devastating, enslaving, and life-squelching results. No one enjoys pain, whether physical, mental, or spiritual. In fact, most of us will go to great lengths to preserve our comfort level—many times, unfortunately, to our own harm.

Admittedly, I’m likely more pain adverse than most. My husband and I became engaged in Nebraska (where I live now), and at the time, one needed blood tests before they could receive a marriage license.

This scared me on a couple levels. First, my past was far from squeaky clean and I’d always harbored a fear that I’d become infected with HIV. Second, I hated needles. So much so that the mere thought of one pricking my skin caused my pulse to rise, my muscles to tense, and my stomach to engage in enough fluttering to initiate a violent sense of nausea.

But I loved my fiancé (now husband) and desperately wanted to spend my life with him! So, each day, I’d drive to the local hospital, add my name to the blood-draw list, and wait. And wait. And wait.

And in my waiting, my anxiety grew until, ten to thirty minutes later, I walked out and drove home in defeat. Finally, my husband took time off work to drive me there himself, sitting with me in the waiting room to make sure I didn’t leave.

All fear stems from pain avoidance, and often, this avoidance ends up costing us much more than what we may have experienced had we simply confronted our fears.

We fear the pain of rejection and so we hold tight to unhealthy relationships or become relational chameleons. But by presenting a false self, we rob ourselves of the gift that comes from connecting with those who know us fully and love us anyway.

When our daughter entered public school after years of homeschooling and a short stint in Christian education, she suddenly found herself in the throws of a completely different culture. One that, at times, could be quite antagonistic to people of faith. I feared her desire to fit in, to make friends, to avoid the sting of rejection and loneliness, would sway her behavior, potentially leading her in a dangerous direction.

Until she told me about an incident during her social studies class. The teacher asked the students, if they could change the world, what would they wish for? Ashley raised her hand and said, “That everyone would be Christians, because then there’d be more love and less hate.”

Knowing how much she longed to make friends in this new environment, I was flabbergasted and asked, “Were you worried how the others might respond?”

“No,” she replied. “I’d rather they know who I am, and either like me or not for that.”

In other words, she was prepared for the possible sting of rejection, and though I have no doubt some amount of fear lingered at the thought, she faced that fear, and in so doing, embraced a deeper level of freedom.

She also discovered her people—friends who loved her for who she was, not who she could’ve pretended to be.

When we think of pain, usually our minds jump to the physical, and that can be daunting for sure. But emotional pain—loss, rejection, betrayal—has the capacity to hurt us most. Because of this, pain avoidance can become our driving motivation. It can cripple us and hinder our ability to live fully alive, if we let it.

But like I did in that hospital lab so long ago, and my daughter did in a middle school classroom, we can face our fears, even if that means embracing potential pain, to live in freedom.

The Waves of Life

When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, (Ugh. Did I really just admit my illness, one with so many myths, judgements, and misconceptions surrounding it, online???) I felt ready to break—physically and emotionally. I thought the intense pain shooting through every ounce of my body would last forever.

I’ve since learned those waves, or flares, as the medical community calls them, won’t last forever, and knowing that brings incredible peace. Knowing there is an eventual end to the pain makes it bearable. And knowing God has a purpose in my pain, which He does, makes it glorious.

Life is like that, isn’t it? Stuck in the muck, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and defeated, to focus on the tumult rather than our Savior. But today my sweet friend and highly-valued critique partner, Majie Lane, MarjiLaine-260x300shares some encouraging thoughts on these “waves of life” we all go through and what each one can do for us.

The Waves of Life by Marji Lane

My latest release, The Love Boat Bachelor is set on a cruise. It had me thinking all things oceans. Looking back on the last few years which comprise my writing life, I can see how waves of circumstances can change the way I think. Even the way I live. I could get fancy like the Starbucks down the corner and call the different waves Tall, Venti, and Grande, but I think I’ll just call my waves small, medium, and large.

The small waves are circumstances that mold us. The way God teaches us through daily life. They tend to take on the appearance of seasons – football, holiday, busy, vacation. Even more seasons if you still have kids in your home – prom, musical, contest, performance, the list goes on. All seasons that enrich, but also complicate our lives.

These small waves can give us a beating when attitudes are sour or other waves are overwhelming.

Medium waves are those that are more of the way we define ourselves. Our jobs, locations, and relationships make up the medium waves. I’m a wife and an author. I’m also a wavesmom and a teacher. I’m a
Texan. I’d find it very hard to change that, but we’ve come close a time or two.

The medium waves aren’t usually the overwhelming ones, but they can throw in turbulence when they have a change. Even then, they only change our title and sometimes a perspective. They don’t actually change who we are.

The deep-water waves, those are the ones that can have the largest effect on us. They comprise the broader seasons of our lives: years with babies in the house or school children, supporting aging family members, retirement, having teenagers, being the aging family member that needs support.

wave 3In deep water, the waves seem to move slowly, almost imperceptive from the height of a cruise ship. In the same way, these particular waves of our lives change over periods of years, decades even.

It’s when any of the waves, especially the large or medium ones, are jarred that the Lord works in our lives. When the water shifts unexpectedly, He’s there supporting and strengthening us through huge directional adjustments.

But Jesus said He’d never leave us comfortless. (John 14:18)

When we are at our most vulnerable, we tend to listen to Him better. Pay attention more willingly. And we’re the most malleable. So that He can perfect us, His creations.

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)

When we are broken and humble before God, He can use us to do the work He needs us to do. And true contentment comes when we’re able to look at the waves we’ve been through and know that none of them conquered us. We can throw back our heads and smile at God, knowing full well He holds us close and will give us whatever we need to accomplish His work.

Your turn: What waves are you dealing with right now, and how is God using them to strengthen you?

Marji Laine, a homeschooling mom, lives with her husband, their four grown and almost-grown kids, and a spoiled black Lab in the Dallas area. When she’s not fighting for quiet time and a space of her own to visit with her characters, she’s indulging in photography, watching NASCAR, and lately helping her oldest with wedding plans.

She works part time as the children’s music director at her church, leads a college-aged Bible Study, and teaches high school writing. She loves acting in stage plays, sings in small groups and a large choir, and has a passion for sharing about the relationship that the Lord wants to have with His children.

She has so loved being involved with Write Integrity Press and their last four collaborative novellas. “What an amazing group of creative and talented people!:” Contact her at MarjiLaine.com or find her on Suspense Sisters ReviewsFacebookTwiiter,Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+.

TLBB CoverThe Love Boat Bachelor:

Romance is a joke.

After the love of Brent Teague’s life came back into his world only to marry someone else, Brent is through with women. He might be through with being a pastor, too.

Brent was so sure that God brought Mara Adkins home to him so they could marry and live happily ever after. Six months after her wedding to another man, that theory is obviously a dud. If Brent could be so wrong about that, who’s to say he’s not mistaken about God calling him to pastoral ministry?

Tired of watching Brent flounder for direction, Brent’s feisty older sister boots him out of Spartanburg and onto a cruise ship. Brent’s old college buddy manages the ship’s staff, and he’s thrilled to finagle Brent into the role of chaplain for the two-week cruise.

As the ship sets sail, Brent starts to relax. Maybe a cruise wasn’t such a bad idea after all. But there’s just one little thing no one told him. He’s not on any ordinary cruise. He’s on The Love Boat.

What’s a sworn bachelor to do on a Caribbean cruise full of romance and love? He’ll either have to jump ship or embrace the unforgettable romantic comedy headed his way.

Grab your copy here!

Let’s talk about this. I know many of you are going through some very painful times. First, to those of you who have shared your struggles with me, know I’m praying for you. For all of us, may we draw ever-nearer livingbygracepic.jpto Christ when we feel ready to ship-wreck, for He is our strength, our comfort, and our closest friend.

To repeat Marji’s question, posed above:

What waves are you dealing with right now, and how is God using them to strengthen you?

I encourage you to prayerfully consider the latter part of that question, because that’s the glory-phrase. Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

I’ll share mine. Living with chronic pain has a way of centering one’s heart in eternity, which in turn gives passion and focus to my ministry. Each day I’m reminded that this sin-and-pain-ravished world is not my home, and that’s a reminder I need.

The Blessings of Trials

I’m formatting this post through tear-blurred vision, amazed once again by God’s mercy and grace. Those who know me personally know I’m not the most advanced-thinking, detail-oriented writer on the web. Lately, with book edits and launch responsibilities, this has proved more true ID-100160717than ever. The result–I don’t often read the guest posts authors send me until the last minute. (Which can result in scrambling if I find what my guest has written isn’t a good fit. You’d think I’d learn.)

Similarly, with the gunk I’ve faced these past two years, you’d think I’d learn … to choose to praise when I want to isolate. To persevere when I’d rather stay in bed. To lean on Christ, who’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, when I feel defeated.

I’m learning. Slowly, and at times with gritted teeth.

Profile Pic mainLong intro to say, today is one of those days, and just when I was beginning to slip into poor-me mode, I read Misty Beller’s post on trials and reminded myself once again, God is in the gunk and the glorious, and He can and does use every tear, trial, and triumph for eternal good.

The Blessings of Trials by Misty Beller

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

I’m not sure who came up with this nifty saying, but for so many years it’s been my life’s motto.

The fact is, trials happen. Life is hard. But through the pain, God has taught me two vital truths.

  1. Sometimes you just have to buckle down and get through it.

Over the last year, my family’s gone through a lot of hard “stuff”, from a miscarriage, to an accident where my husband broke multiple bones in his face and neck. Since then he’s had six surgeries, each rendering him mostly an invalid for about four weeks, and me the sole breadwinner and caregiver for our girls, age seven and three. There were so many times that I could only take one day—one hour—at a time. There was no room to worry about the future, I could only buckle down and focus on what had to be done in the next hour.

But that was a hard lesson for this former control-freak to learn. It took God stripping away layers of my perceived ability to control. I couldn’t know which doctor appointment would bring to light more broken bones, requiring immediate surgery. I couldn’t know when the call would come from the babysitter that one of the girls had thrown up five times in the last hour. God was the only one who could see ahead, and I had to trust that He would bring us through it. There was no other option for me.

  1. The blessings can’t come without the trials.

This concept didn’t become crystal clear for me until recently. It’s not just that God will bless us through the hard times, with patience and strength, and maybe a few token bright spots. But it’s not possible to receive the best He has in store for us, unless we go through the hard times. Kind of like looking at a river on a map. You can’t reach the ocean until you’ve followed the path of the river.

My writing journey is a great example of this. There were so many times I thought I’d found the perfect avenue for my book. An agent or editor would send an optimistic response to my initial query, and they would ask for the full manuscript. But God gently shut each of the wrong doors, opening little windows of light in the direction He had planned. At the end of the day, I’m so thankful for the “No” answers I received, because they brought me to the point where I could see Him pointing toward the right door. And now, my debut novel The Lady and the Mountain Man released in September, and I have no doubt I’m exactly where God has planned for me in my writing journey. But I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for the awful times of rejection and uncertainty and frustration.

These two truths aren’t new, and may seem fairly obvious. But when you’re in the darkest times, wondering if you’ll even make it to morning, knowing these two facts—along with the absolute truth of God’s love for you, His child—may be just what you need to see the light. I know that’s been the case for me.

I’ll be praying God blesses you with perseverance and the fullness of His plan for your life, even through the hard times.

Blessings,

Misty

***

Misty Beller was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and two daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Writing is a dream come true for Misty. Her family—both immediate and extended—is the foundation that holds her secure in that dream.

You can find Misty on her website, blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Mountain Man coverThe Lady and the Mountain Man back cover blurb:

Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancé’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her intended husband was killed by a grizzly, leaving behind a bitter older brother and a spunky younger sister.

When Gideon Bryant finds a city girl standing in his log cabin, his first thought is to send her back where she came from. He’s lost too many people to the wild elements of these mountains––his parents, his wife, and now his brother. His love for this untamed land lives on, but he’s determined not to open his heart to another person.

But when an accident forces Leah to stay at the ranch for seven more months, can Gideon protect his heart from a love he doesn’t want? Has Leah really escaped the men who seek her life?

Buy it here:

On Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. When I’m going through a tough time, physically or emotionally, it’s easy to focus on the here and now and forget the eternal. But God is ever faithful to remind me of His sovereignty and love, a love that is bigger than anything this sin-cursed world can throw our way. And He sees. He knows. He cares, and He is always working to mold and equip us and to fulfill His eternal plan.

Eternal. I often lose sight of that, but in truth, trials are a tangible reminder that this world is not our home. (Praise God for that!)

What about you? When have you received blessings from your trials? How has a trial (grief, sickness, material struggles, etc.) encouraged you to remember and focus on the eternal?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And now, for those of you who aren’t on FB, here’s where I’ve been this week.

Yesterday I shared an article on Rest Ministries that fits quite well with today’s theme. In it I share how God has used my chronic illnesses to bless and grow my family. You can read this piece here.

Yesterday I also learned my debut novel had been nominated for the fiction category of the ECPA awards. Yay!

Today I’m on Deborah Piccurelli’s chatting about my novel, where the inspiration for the story came from, and how I hope the story will impact my readers. You can read the interview here.

Deborah also read and reviewed my novel. I enjoyed reading her perspective of the story. You can read her review here.

I also did a book give-away on fellow author Sara Ellen’s blog, one which she has extended. So, if you haven’t read my novel yet and would like a chance to win it, or if you’d like to win it as a gift for a friend, you can enter the drawing here.

Author Catherine Castle invited me to visit with her readers on her blog. You can join our chat here.

On Monday I stopped by Jessica Everingham’s to talk about living a life without regret. You can read this post here.

That’s my week. (Most of it, anyway.) What about you? What have you been up to? What has God been showing you?

On Monday I talked about the life-transformaing power of grace on Wordsmith Woman. You can read that post here.

Tears Not Wasted

portraitI think we’ve all had times where all we can pray is, “Lord, why?” Why me? Why now? Why this? Unfortunately, I don’t believe God always gives us answers this side of heaven, but every once in a while, we catch a glimpse of God’s glorious, loving plan. And when that happens, all we can say is, “Amen!” Today my sweet friend Jodie Bailey, author of Freefall, shares such a moment and the heartfelt praise that ensued. As you read her account, pause to praise God afresh, knowing He truly does work all things to good, that He never wastes a tear or heartache, and that His plans are always, always loving and good.

Because I’d Been There by Jodie Bailey

I don’t know about you, but it seems like, at least around here, Satan is mad about something.  He’s kicking and screaming right now, and it seems like there are a lot of people taking hits.  I’ve seen division, hurt feelings, illness, crazy left-field things happening to families, churches, schools…  Maybe his time is getting short and he knows it.  I don’t know.  I just know it seems to be amping up.  Anybody else seeing it?

And I just realized that’s a tie-in to what happens to Joseph in Genesis 40.  Honestly, I didn’t see it until just now.  But Joseph knew a thing or two about situations getting worse, about hope appearing and disappearing.  Favored son to slave.  Favored slave to prisoner.  Favored prisoner to, perhaps worst of all, forgotten.  It’s one thing to have little hope.  It’s another to have hope brush your fingertips then evaporate.   In Proverbs 13, it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”  I wonder how sick Joseph’s heart was after this?

Genesis 40:23 (GW)–Nevertheless, the chief cupbearer didn’t remember Joseph. He forgot all about him.

Some time after Joseph is falsely accused and imprisoned, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and chief baker land in prison and start dreaming dreams that Joseph–by God–correctly interprets.   In gratitude and, wholeheartedly, the cupbearer promises to remember Joseph before the king… then immediately forgets.

How long do you imagine Joseph sat in prison waiting to get his say?  How much hope do you think he had when the cupbearer headed into freedom?  How long did he sit on the edge of his bed, jumping up at every sound, just knowing this was the moment, unable to sleep for the anticpation?  How long before he sank into dejectedness and came the day he didn’t even bother to get out of bed?  From Joseph’s view, it was hopeless.

I’ve been there.  See, when I was mired down in fear for nearly ten years, I knew God could heal me.  I knew he was 100% capable.  Yet time after time after time, prayer after prayer after prayer, the healing didn’t come.  I begged.  I cried.  I raged.  I gave up.  I hoped.  I lost hope.  I hoped again.  Yet healing didn’t come.  Until my birthday, eleven years ago tomorrow, when He freed me completely, healed me totally, in a moment.  Over.  Done.  Free.

A few months ago, I sat with a student in the throes of a panic attack… and I knew what to say.  I knew how to respond.  And sitting there with 584970_untitledher, it came over me.  It was worth it.  Nearly ten years of crying out prepared me to sit with a hurting child.  And I finally, finally, finally saw why God waited.  He had a reason.  He had a purpose.  And even if it was just to help one heart, it was worth it.

It was the same with Joseph.  God waited.  He had a purpose for allowing Joseph to suffer.  No, I can’t explain it totally, but I know all Joseph went through prepped him to save thousands of lives later.  I know God knew what He was doing, even when Joseph thought he’d been locked in a dark, black, hopeless box.

We can’t see the whole chess board.  God can.  As hard as it is–and believe me, it’s hard to say it even–but that’s when trust happens.  That’s when we have to believe that we believe that we believe that God knows what’s coming, and none of this is wasted.  In the end, it’s going to be glorious beyond anything we can possibly see coming.

Jodie Bailey is Tarheel born and bred. After fifteen years as a military spouse, she’s proud to be a retired military spouse settled back in North Carolina with her husband and daughter. She is the author of the military suspense novel Freefall and is a contributor to Edie Melson’s devotional for military families, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home. When not working on her next novel, she teaches middle schoolers to love writing as much as she does (if she’s lucky that day and they’re actually listening…). Jodie loves to bake, ride the Harley with her husband, and fish the Outer Banks with their daughter. You can find her on the web at www.jodiebailey.com.

Her debut novel, Freefall, has been called amazing, awesome, and explosive:

9780373445691With one accusation, army officer Cassidy Matthews’s name, reputation—and life—are on the line. A Special Forces soldier insists that Cassy’s Fort Bragg-based unit is smuggling drugs. And the accuser? It’s Cassy’s handsome, stubborn ex-husband, Major Shane Logan. Shane knows Cassy is innocent, which is why he’s sure she’s being set up to take the fall. Proving it, though, means working together…and trying to ignore the feelings they still share. The closer they get—to the truth and each other—the more the danger grows from a ruthless criminal who’ll stop at nothing to destroy them both.

***

Have you ever encountered someone going through a trial you once endured, and if so, how did your previous experience help you minister to them? Do you believe genuine compassion deepens with understanding? How might pain and struggle help us further God’s kingdom?

Let’s talk about this!

Share your stories with us in the comments below, on Living by Grace, or join our online Bible study. We’d love to have you!