I recall being so in love with a man once I could hardly stand it. The trouble was that he wasn’t in love with me. I played games with him and me. Every bit of attention he gave me, no matter how small, I took as a sign that he had feelings for me. My friends tried to rein in my attitude and behavior as they gently told me the truth, but to no avail. I didn’t want to hear it. I refused to hear it. I wanted what I wanted.
Yes, he thought I was nice, but he didn’t love me. He didn’t want me that way. I couldn’t receive or accept this. As time went by and waiting for him to realize what I already believed went past my heart’s deadline, the pain finally forced me to confront him. “Are you ever going to marry me?” I asked. Without blinking or hesitating, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “No, Michelle. I am never going to marry you.”
My entire world crumpled before my eyes. The pain was excruciating. I wanted to die. And yet, deep down inside, I had already known the truth. I’d just refused to face it.
The truth can hurt. It can cut deep, slicing our strength into shreds and threatening to chop our hearts into little bits. Even though we might not realize it, this is when we are able to really breathe. Even if we don’t like the truth, it still will set us free…free to move on. Denial is bondage. We can’t move forward if we’re stuck in “where we wish we were.” We need to acknowledge fully where we are and then move past it. Accept the pain as the attention getter it is. Let it burn going down, removing anything that impairs our vision from seeing the situation as God sees it. Although it hurts, it’s a “good” hurt because it is helping us grow and embrace change.
Pain is best treated as a friend. I remind myself of this often. God gave us the ability to feel pain because it lets us know there’s a problem, and it forces us to deal with what is wrong or what we’ve buried, overlooked, or refused to surrender to God. When we stop and listen to the hurt, we uncover secrets our deceptive hearts may have believed or perpetrated. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else.”
God stands patiently, waiting for us to open our hands to show Him our hearts so He can do what He does best—pour on the oil of love and forgiveness and heal us. So often He says, “Give me your pain,” and we reply, “What pain? I don’t have any pain.” Our denial keeps us slaves to the very thing we want to be rescued from. We don’t want to go there because change might be required. You see, admission or exposure of the truth bears great responsibility.
“What are you going to do about it?” That’s the next question I don’t like to hear. I say, “I don’t like how this relationship is going.” And God says, “What are you going to do about it?” We want to check out the alternatives for getting the life, the love, the circumstances we want before giving up what we have. But the walk of faith doesn’t always expose those options until we face the truth and surrender to the will of God.
Sometimes God simply says, “I know the plans I have for you.”
And we say, “What plans might those be exactly? I’d like to know if it’s going to be better than what I’ve been clinging to. Even though I don’t like it, at least I know what it is.”
And God says, “I have plans for you—for good and not for evil.”
And we reply, “Well, that’s just too vague, God. Can you be more specific?”
And the conversation continues until our pain forces us to scream the truth: “My choices and decisions aren’t working!” There we’ve finally said it. When we turn to God and open our tear-stained hands and say, “God, look at the mess I’ve made,” He gently extricates what we’re holding and makes it right. That’s all God wants. For us to be honest with Him and with ourselves. “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow’” (Isaiah 1:18). Just in case we are afraid of the work it’s going to take to fix our situation, God offers to do the hardest part for us. He cleanses us and then empowers and encourages us to cooperate with His restoration plan.