Why are we so uncomfortable with seeing the deep aches in other women? With admitting our own? Why must we be so ready with a band-aid or distraction?
You know what I mean—a friend is sharing from the deep well of her heart and the immediate response is compassion. The silent reaching out to her. And it is beautiful.
Within moments, someone rushes in with a silver lining, a call to examine her heart for sin,or a word of advice. We wrap her problem up into a perfect package. We solve the puzzle. We brush over her pain. Or our own.
Why are we so like Job's friends? Who, to be fair, are better friends than us. They sat in silence for a week with Job before offering their advice (Job 2:12-13). They wept and were without explanations for seven days. Think about that. Seven days and seven nights of sitting in the ashes with a friend. Can we learn to do that? Oh, how I hope we can.
Because grief hurts. Unmet Longings ache. Life makes us groan. Even hope is painful at times.
And that's natural—not the way it should be, but the way it is. Because we live in a fallen world and Jesus has not yet returned to restore all of creation. Romans 8:18-26 tells us that creation itself groans and aches to be realized from the curse. That the earth experiences birth pains. If creation aches and cries out, doesn't it make sense that we would as well?
We do not experience contentment or fulfillment now because we are not meant to. This world is broken. And it is right for us to ache over what is skewed. It is right to hope for Jesus and life as He intends.
We have the hope of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit within as a foretaste, but we act as though any aching should have been abolished upon receiving the Holy Spirit. As though we should not struggle with the suffering we are promised.
But receiving the Holy Spirit actually awakens our eyes to just how broken the world and we are. To how much more we want right relationships, a godly marriage, or freedom from disease. Whether or not we experience the fulfillment of these longings here on earth, we will be more aware of the disparity between what life is and what life should be.
I think that's why hope hurts. To truly hope we have to acknowledge just how deeply we want the fulfillment. And just how broken we will continue to be without it. We want something we cannot see—and cannot control (Rom. 8:24). And even to admit that deepens the longing's ache. Praying about it pokes at the pain. Talking about it causes it to throb. Waiting with patience, as we are commanded to do in Rom. 8:25, hurts. It is easier not to want, to be dead to our longings and to distract ourselves with lesser things.
Because hope is messy. It's raw and rather like childbirth. And while its fulfillment is always worth it, that doesn't lessen the pain. Can you imagine telling a woman in the throes of a 24-hour labor that her pain is really not so bad because she'll have a baby by tomorrow? While that might be true, it is not helpful and it just may get you killed.
Which brings me back to my original questions—Why do we try to fix the problems of our beleaguered friends? Why do we distract ourselves from our true longings? For some of us, we just aren't comfortable with these emotions and we hate that someone is in pain. We want it to go away. For others, I think we speak into it because it is messy and that doesn't fit with our perspective of the Christian's victorious life. Regardless of which reason, most of the time, it's about feeling better and not about serving another person or growing ourselves. I know because I do it. More than I wish I did.
So what should we do? Give into the pain and sit in the ashes forever? Absolutely not. For the woman who has Christ has hope. A day is coming when life will be as it was meant to be—full of joy, contentment, love, security, and LIFE (Rev. 21:4). We must never forget this in our encouragements and prayers.
But, more often that not, we need to enter into the messy aching and groaning, the ash-covered grief, for ourselves and with our friends. We need to sit and be silent and pray and love. We need to acknowledge the pain and how hard it is and may continue to be. We need to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). And ache with those who ache. And get up only when God says to do so.