Updated: Jul 11
In last Sunday’s sermon, we talked about sitting with our suffering instead of trying to skip straight to the healing part and about not being alone with our suffering but sharing it with others and with God through prayer.
I probably should have added this caveat: this way of following the Spirit is really not easy to do. I fail most of the time. This week I have found myself trying to skip over suffering or hide the reality of it from myself and others. I found myself thinking, “I don’t really have the time to feel sad right now, I’ve got to drive somewhere or get the kids to stop fighting or do the dishes.”
One day, my daughter was sad and I made myself sit with her and not be busy. But then I still found myself wanting to push away her sadness with a new book, or some food, or by talking about something else.
We can fall into a trap of avoiding our or others’ suffering. We can also fall into a trap of really feeling our suffering but not asking for help. Both of these traps come from the fallacy of thinking we can handle it all on our own.
It is a discipline to allow ourselves to really experience difficult emotions, to be fully with others who are suffering, and to share our vulnerabilities. But when we can do that, God helps us by holding that suffering for us and helping us carry it.
Some of you all are probably much better at following the Spirit in this way than I am. But for those of you who are like me, I thought it might be useful to share some specific things that I try to do to be more present during challenging times.
We can stop to figure out what we're feeling. Sometimes our anger or sadness are right in front of us, but a lot of the time, we might be carrying around pain without really knowing it. We can put a pause on the busyness every once in a while to figure out what we're holding inside. I will sometimes go for a walk, drive without the radio on, sit and stare out the window, or write in a journal when I know there's something nagging but I don't know what it is, and I ask myself, "What is really going on? What am I really feeling?"
We can allow ourselves time to feel the hard emotions. We can make a time each day where we allow ourselves to feel really angry and really sad and really anxious and whatever else is inside that we aren’t allowing out. When we don’t give ourselves the time to feel our difficult emotions, they don’t just disappear. They get stuck inside us and cause our bodies and brains to hold stress and tension until we let them out.
We can make time for prayer. We can also make time each day, possibly right after allowing ourselves to feel what we’re feeling, to then give this to God through prayer. We can pray the Psalms that speak to the emotions we’re feeling. Or we can just say out loud or in our hearts, “God, please hold this for me. God please help me carry this burden.” We can also pray through one of the prayer groups in our church.
We can respond honestly to the question, “How are you doing?” Opening ourselves up to others and revealing our vulnerabilities is a way of sharing with God. It allows other people to help hold our suffering. It also transforms our relationships by allowing us to be our true selves and allowing others to be their fully-vulnerable selves.
by Dianne Garcia, Pastor of Family Ministry