Posted by: kathyhugs | May 23, 2009

Step Into The Pain excerpt

Step Into the Pain
by Doug Clark

I was speechless.

In an airport on a trip recently, I listened to a halting voice mail message from a close friend, telling me of another friend’s unexpected death. Tony had died very suddenly while working a second job. He was 44 and seemed in the peak of health. He was an athlete and a radiant believer who lived his faith as a basketball coach (his first job) and deeply loved his wife and family.

My heart ached as I considered the plight of his widow, who has been a close friend since 1973 and a part of my church’s ministry on many levels. Heidi was left with three daughters. The loss is devastating.

My mind whirled as I sought a quiet place from which to call my friend. I pondered the fact that she is a counselor who can easily recite all the stages of grief. She has comforted many who have faced loss themselves. But this time the agony was hers, not someone else’s. When she picked up the phone, I heard the pain and emotion in her voice and realized I had no idea what to say to her.

I mumbled and fumbled around awkwardly, letting her know how much my wife and I loved her. There was not much else that could be said at the moment. I longed to put my arms around her and share her pain, but couldn’t do that from 1,000 miles away. I promised to see her when I got home and hung up.

How does someone handle that kind of loss? How do you survive when the bottom drops out?

At the risk of being simplistic, I believe one key that I’ve seen modeled by people who have weathered deep pain, and emerged better for it, is that they lean into the pain.

I’ve watched how two other close friends, Rex and Connie, have processed and grown through the loss of their young adult son – their only child – to suicide three and a half years ago. Here’s what I’ve observed in them and others:

They stepped into their pain honestly. Sitting with Rex (we’re in a small group together each week with a couple of other men), he never sugar-coated his situation, questions, or feelings. He demonstrated to our group that He has enough faith in God to tell Him straight-up what he thought of allowing his son to die. That kind of honesty can be brutal. It’s messy. Rex knew he had permission to say pretty much anything with us, and still be safe. Wounds don’t heal if you just cover them up.

In the Old Testament, David lived in this kind of transparency with God. Phrases like “how long, O Lord?” echo throughout his Psalms. His words were painfully honest. And yet, God called him “a man after My heart.” He wrote in Psalm 22: 1-2:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent (NIV).

It’s important to remember that although these words were prophetically pointing to what Jesus said on the cross, they were first poured out of the heart of David as coming from his own experience. David leaned into his pain honestly.

They stepped into their pain in community. Rex and Connie are part of prayer groups, support groups for survivors of suicide loss, and other small groups. With believers and unbelievers who share this common thread of suicide loss or care for loved ones with mental illness, there is a safe place to practice being honest with others who understand. Sometimes friends want to love you, but simply don’t “get it.” There is a unique fellowship among others who have experienced the same wounds. People heal more quickly when they are intentional about “bearing one another’s burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

They stepped into their pain redemptively. As they have deepened in their growing understanding of the power of God’s Spirit to heal their hearts, Rex and Connie have sensitively shared that reality with others who have faced a similar loss. They are salt and a hopeful light in relationship with people who know only the salt of tears and little hope. I’ve thought many times how they are living examples of 1 Corinthians 1:3-7, “comforting others with the comfort with which they have been comforted.”

This article spoke volumes to my heart this morning. Recently with all of the delays over the trials, I have been trying to ignore the fact that I am still grieving. I have been trying to forget that I have a hole in my heart that is still healing. The delays in the trials make it very hard to move on with our new normal life and I have tried to go back to the time before Tonia died but with little success. Instead I have put added pressure on Rick and Sean as well as my extended family. My relationships have suffered over the last several months. I am not the same person I once was but God is shaping me to be the woman He wants me to become. But I have to listen and I have to continue to Step Into my Pain. I have cried out in the early morning hours: “Why is my daughter gone? Why is everything delayed again and again? Why am I at odds with the people in my life? Please take away the sorrow in my heart!” God usually allows me to cry in the shower and then when I turn on mu Ipod a song speaks to my heart.

I have so much more of this journey to go through. My relationship with my son, Sean, is one of my biggest stumbling blocks in my faith walk right now. I have become too clingy with him. He is a man who is living at home and trying to set his feet on a new course in his life. I want him to be my young son who I can mother and advise. It isn’t going well! LOL. I have been afraid of losing him; which is not how God wants me to act. I haven’t been trusting God with his life and his future. It isn’t easy knowing that I only have one of my children still here alive and able dote on. So I am reading “Parenting your 20 Something Kids”. I have more to learn and I need to do it now before I push him away.

We have also decided that we need to get back involved with some adults in our lives. We have been teaching Sunday school to the senior high group, we co-lead small groups for the senior high and we work with the youth group on Sunday nights. We don’t have the fellowship with other adults and we need this. We have decided to step away from teaching Sunday school for now and get back involved with an adult group at church on Sunday mornings. We need the fellowship and the accountability.

God promises never to leave us, He promises to comfort us when we mourn, and He promises us to be our strength. I need to step into my pain and acknowledge once again that I can’t do this alone!

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

With much love and hugs!



  1. It’s Daphne. These verses popped in my head after I read your post. I know that you know them, but I felt I should share them again with you:Romans 8:15 — For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.John 8:36 — So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

  2. Kathy & Rick, It is Betty (again)….I can so relate to your frustration at trial delays, not being able to plan for things and then having your son in a car collision… Somehow it doesn't seem 'fair' that berverd parents have to go on with more junk in life, just like everyone else. I would like to offer to you to come to our place in Canada, it is about less than a day's drive and also, we have 35ft trailer at "Elim Lodge" a bit north of Peterborough, ON. This is a Christian trailer/campsite with cottages, etc and it is so pretty. They even have a meal plan so you won't have to cook. They have a website "Elim Lodge". It would be good for us to get together….Wayne is VERY angry about anything/everything even though it has been 5 years since our daughter passes.If you email me, I will give you my toll free telephone number (one thing I kept after closing down the B&B). We have 5 bedrooms, 3 of them have their own complete bathroom so you would NOT impose on us at all……. I think and pray for you daily….Betty P

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