[CF Devotonals] 2011-07-28 - Pain and Praise

Written in August of 2008

"I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail looking for my God." (Psalm 69:3)

"Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name" (Psalm 103:1).

Question to Consider: How can we be honest about the pain we feel - and honestly praise God at the same time?

It is nearly 11 pm on a Friday evening. My oldest nephew is sitting across the room playing a computer game. His younger two siblings are watching a Disney movie in the other room. The cartoon sounds and voices drift back to me. Earlier, the boys and I played a couple games of Uno. Their little sister is full of hugs and funny things to say. She calls me her BFF. Later tonight, she'll snuggle up to me and fall asleep. Tomorrow, we'll take Mom's boat out on the lake and enjoy swimming, and some fun in the sun. The weather has been cooler for much of the week, actually comfortable. This is a very surprising and welcome reprieve from the scorching summer heat we usually experience here in SC.

These moments with my family, and appreciating the beauties of nature, are very meaningful to me. They remind me that every good and perfect gift is from above, as James says. I try to be fully present in each positive moment, and to express thankfulness to God for the blessings he's given me. At the same time, though, my heart is hurting and broken.

I'm not supposed to be here today. I'm supposed to be thousands of miles away in New Mexico right now. At least, that was the plan less than a week ago. I was going out there to spend time with the man I thought I would marry. The whole trip was planned. I was very excited about it. We both were, at one time not too long ago, when we bought the tickets.

Then, last Sunday night, my boyfriend said he didn't think the relationship should continue. He said he'd been praying a lot, and had the sense that God was saying "No" about us moving forward towards engagement or marriage. I was stunned and heartbroken. I hadn't gotten such a "message" from God. On the contrary, I felt strongly that this was the man I would marry. I'd never truly felt I could make a life with anyone I'd dated before, and was so excited to think I'd finally found "the one." I believed God had brought us together. I'd been praying about marriage and finding a life partner for a long time. At 31, it wasn't as if I hadn't been patient (or tried to be anyway).

So, I'm spending my week off, with loving and supportive family. I'm so thankful for them, and for the things that give me a moment of joy or pleasant distraction. At the same time, I'm feeling tremendous hurt and disappointment. I'm praying a lot. Sometimes, my prayers are fairly rational. At those times, I tell God I'm willing to trust Him because He knows the big picture. I ask that God would lead us both, give us peace, and get us through this difficult time.

Truthfully, though, my private prayers aren't always "nice." I'm upset and angry, and get pretty emotional a lot right now. When my prayers come from that place, I tell God I'm tired of being jerked around, and tired of not being able to have what I want most, to make a life with someone. I let Him know, rather forcefully, that I don't understand why this happened, that I don't know how I'll get through the hurt I'm feeling, and that I wish He would do a little more to help me out. I'm honest about my anger, too. I think God is big enough to handle my honesty. He already knows how I'm feeling, anyway.

In the Psalms, David was pretty honest about his hurt and anger, too. The thing I've always found perplexing is that he often goes from asking God where He is and why He isn't helping, in one verse, to praising Him for His creation and faithfulness in the next verse. I've even joked that David must have had the type of mood disorder where a person can swing between extreme happiness and extreme despair. I think I understand it better now, though. What I'm realizing is that David could praise out of obedience and a knowledge of what is true, even if he wasn't feeling happy at the time. He could choose to be thankful - even though he was hurting. This is not an either/or. It is a both... and...

Just like King David, I can be sad and upset and even angry, and still be thankful and praise God for the blessings in my life. I can dislike my present life circumstances, and tell Him I don't want this. I can cry out to Him to help me get through this time of grief, even though I am angry, since I know I can't do this on my own. At the same time, I can appreciate the positives in my life. I can enjoy watching the squirrels playing in my Mom's yard, the laughter of my nephews and niece, and the sounds of water lapping against the sides of the boat when we drop anchor to swim or fish for a few minutes. I can laugh at my dog as she plays, and take a moment to focus on the warmth of the sun.

I know God understands exactly where I am emotionally, and the longings of my heart. He knows I can't understand this in my humanness. I can praise Him for these attributes, and pray that He will keep His promises to heal my heart and continue to bring good things into my life. Like David, I can cry out to Him, whether it is a sob or a shout for joy. The same is true for you.

Lord, thank You that we can come to You honestly and share our negative feelings, as well as the positive ones. Thank You for giving us examples in Your Word of how this is possible. Please help us to both be honest about our pain, and to praise You for Your blessings and promises.

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