I recently had my own “coming out”. I decided to share with the world my deepest secret: I was sexually abused as a child. There were many things that contributed to finally writing that blog post, but the biggest one is that I wanted to share with others that healing is possible, that pain can have a purpose.
Here is a portion of what I shared on my blog:
“Despite the awfulness of it all, [I have learned that] God was with me in it then and He is with me in it now. It would be easy to rage at God--and I have to admit that I have from time to time--that He didn’t rescue me, spare me. The how could you and why didn’t you questions have stormed my mind frequently and, for today, I have made peace with them, knowing that God does not allow us to experience pain in vain.”
What is all the pain and suffering for then, if it is not in vain? “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven. …” (Orson F. Whitney)
Each of us is bound tight in darkness at one point or another in our lives. Trapped in a cocoon that threatens to suffocate us. A place so lonely, it's crowded with our blackest fears. Surrounded by a wall that keeps us from connecting with others. A place that hurts, causes every inch of us to scream in pain. And we sit there, paralyzed by it all, wondering why. Why doesn't God save me? Can't He see me here? What did I do to deserve this?
We are blinded by the void. We are so focused on the pain, the fear, the barrier we just know is going to crush us, that we cannot comprehend how we are changing: developing muscles we didn't have before, changing inside and out, growing wings. Our very nature is evolving into something graceful and elegant and breathtakingly beautiful, we are being glorified and we don't even realize it. And when we can't take it anymore, we begin to fight. We push and shove and bend and move anyway we can, attempting the impossible. We claw our way out of the darkness, feeding off an energy we didn't know we had. We're sure we'll die for trying, but we don't. We push through the pain. We call out for help, "Please give me the strength I need to get through this, Lord."
And He does.
We break through, our wings and muscles taut, begging to take off. So we do. We jump head first and soar.
That breathtaking moment of lift-off when we begin to fly, that is why God doesn't save us all from our suffering.
“[Furthermore,]” Howard W. Hunter reminds us, “the Father’s plan for proving [and refining] his children did not exempt the Savior himself. The suffering he undertook to endure, and which he did endure, equaled the combined suffering of all men [and women everywhere. Trembling and bleeding and wishing to shrink from the cup, he [finished the work and will of the Father.]”
Another thought from my original post:
“I think often that we assume that because Christ’s sacrifice and atonement can heal all things, that God will heal all things. Often, we (read I) become very grumpy when He doesn’t. However, I’ve learned over the years, that it’s okay that He doesn’t heal everything. Also, that, in fact, it’s best for me and my progression that He doesn’t erase it all, and, certainly, not all at once. It's taken me thirty-five years to be able to face the pain, I can't expect it to be gone overnight. We all, no matter what has caused us pain, occasionally experience echoes of that pain. Phantom pains, indeed. Even Christ still carries His scars.”
Sometimes, we allow ourselves to be lulled into the false illusion that if we are faithful to Christ and His gospel we will be spared from pain and affliction. However, we must realize that suffering is not conditional. In fact, as disciples of Christ, we should expect to suffer. All the scriptures and prophets have taught us such.
“Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” (Luke 13:23-24) Strait is defined as, “a position of difficulty, distress or need; strict, requiring principles.” (Dictionary.com) Therefore, not only should be expect pain and tribulation, but we should submit to the process of overcoming it.
Also, Paul said, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)
I love this quote by Carlfred Broderick that perfectly sums all that I have learned to be true: “The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in the event of pain.”
We must process our pain through the filter of the Gospel of Christ for it to have purpose in our lives. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh said years after the kidnapping and death of her baby, “I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.” (Time, 5 Feb. 1973, p. 35)
I have been able to develop more patience and long-suffering in my trials and afflictions by learning to rely on the Lord and give it all to Him. It is through earnest and sincere prayer, honest study of God’s word, and submission through fasting that we can come to comprehend the purpose of our pain and allow it to transform us. Christ can heal us, little by little, if we will let Him.
An old proverb states: “Every flower and every tree must grow through the dirt.” So I have chosen to push through the dirt, and, from time to time, when I remember to, I glory in the dirt. For it is in the back-breaking labor of pushing and digging that I gain my strength. It is in the darkness, suffocating and alone, that I slough off the hard shell I've allowed to encase my heart, and, once my inner softness is exposed, I furrow deep with my roots looking for the Wellspring of Life. It is the darkness that propels me upward, forcing me to claw my way up and out toward Everlasting Light.
It brings to mind these words: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” (1 Peter 1:23) To be born again in Christ. Maybe that's what trials are: continual opportunities for burial and rebirth, each time increasing our faith, our strength, our patience and our fortitude as we dig our way back to the surface, seeking the Son.
To conclude: “So I am willing to remain vulnerable to those painful realities that inevitably come with facing the truth about myself, with learning, with growing, with loving, and with trying to be faithful. Pain of that kind helps me remember that I am in contact with life as it was meant to be experienced, thus preparing me more fully for that appointed reunion with those who sent me here—when, at last, my joy may be full.” (Bruce C. Hafen)