Sometimes, it just hurts; life. Existing is often painful. This will be the weirdest feeling I’ll ever try to convey through writing; for those of you who have never felt this way, you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. You might even think I’ve lost it a little… that’s okay, you definitely won’t be the first or the last to think that. But for those who get it, who know this feeling, I want you to know that I’m with you. I’m not sure when it dissipates, or if it ever will, but you’re not alone in it.
For close to a year now, every day has been painful for me. Not completely painful, not chronically painful, but the kind of pain that flares up when you’re not expecting it. Like an old back injury that allows you to run marathons and climb mountains, but makes you fall to your knees with a sneeze.
It’s as if the places of my heart that used to be filled with chasing dreams and “running the world” is now partially taken over by an ache. It’s an ache for the world; our world. Maybe that’s part of getting older and growing up? Seeing more, watching friends and family face harder challenges, facing harder challenges in your own life?
All of my life, I’ve consciously and subconsciously been taught that emotions = actions. If you’re sad, do something to cheer yourself up. Feeling angry; get revenge.When you’re happy, seek more of it. Instead, what if emotion is just that; feelings? Not meant to be acted upon, but simply experienced and handed over to God? Action can certainly be a good thing at times, but too often, we’re not taking action, we’re reacting. They’re two very different things. Reacting is in response to something; typically fear, shame, guilt, or losing control (which leads back to fear).
This isn’t all gloom and doom here; I absolutely do believe there’s a place for joy in our lives, but maybe there are seasons of other feels too. A healthy, balanced life probably includes both at the same time. However, these other seasons have a place, a really important one. These seasons are where humility is learned, empathy is felt, faith is strengthened, and growth happens.
I’m moving from a place of “fix this” to “feel this” and it’s terribly painful at times, but it’s also really, really okay. It’s freeing and oddly peaceful. It’s scary and it reminds me to lean into faith. It shows me how little I was ever actually in control in the first place, and how much energy was expended pretending that I was.
Over the last year, I’ve tried to stop reacting and start being. For me, being means that I’m not in constant control of what happens, which leads to unexpected emotions. This is where that random sneeze that throws out your back comes in. It’s easy to want to control and calculate every move; if there’s nothing unexpected, there’s nothing unexpected. But then there’s also nothing unexpected. I’ve cried myself to sleep about problems I simply can’t fix or make right. And I’ve also giggled more than ever. In between the pain, there’s so much joy. So many moments that weren’t penciled in or captured on my Insta Stories – but they were more real than ever before.
Recently, I read the book “Fresh Brewed Life” by Nicole Johnson. In it, she says that longings and desires (feelings) aren’t sinful at all. God created us with longings in our hearts. However, the action that we take to attempt to fix or satisfy those longings is where the whole thing gets a little dicey. One of the greatest things I’ve uncovered throughout this journey is the permission to feel things – good and bad. It’s okay to be sad, and it’s also okay to experience joy – sometimes they both come in the same week, the same day, even the same hour. Other times, the scale leans heavily toward one or the other.
I’ve always thought the book of Psalms was really interesting; not just because of the verses themselves, but because of the wide array of emotions David was displaying. When I first became a Christian and started reading the Bible regularly, I remember asking the leader of our small group if David was bipolar. I wish I could remember his response. From one chapter to the next, he teeters between the celebration of God’s great love to the grief and sadness that comes from living in a broken world. It’s only now that I can begin to process how he might have been feeling.
If you’re in this space and you know what I’m talking about, I’m so happy for you. It’s hard; harder than it appears, but it’s a growth journey unlike any other. It’s an invitation to draw closer to God, to trust Him with more, to loosen your grip and eventually let down the reigns. There is nothing wrong with you; you’re not broken or ungrateful, you’re learning who you were created to be. Remember that only after the storm comes a rainbow. In order to see the unplanned, unexpected joy, you have to stop hiding from the rain. Your protection is already promised, your safety is already ensured, so step out and put down your umbrella. See for yourself if every “dancing in the rain” movie scene is just as beautiful in real life; my guess is that it’s even better than it looks.