Sleep on This: Wasting pain (April 14)
Good evening, friend:
How is your soul? Whatever its state, it cannot but have been helped by these gorgeous, gorgeous days. Drink in the beauty of God’s creation as you continue to live into this new pace of life.
For me, one of the most captivating verses in the Psalms is found in Psalm 56:8.
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?
David wrote this psalm during a painful time when he had been captured by his arch-enemies, the Philistines, in the city of Gath, the hometown of…wait for it… Goliath! His late arch-enemy! David knew he was in great peril and feigned insanity in order to escape their clutches.
The Psalm speaks of him being “trampled” by his enemies; of his fear, his injuries at their hands, their persistent evil towards him. And then, near the middle, we find verse 8.
Think of your most sleepless night. How many times did you toss and turn in bed? God tallied every flip-flop, David says. Think of your greatest moments of grief, when you cried your eyes dry. God captured every tear in a special bottle labelled “_____’s Tears” (fill in your own name.) He stores that bottle in an impenetrable vault. And, in an act of empathetic redundancy, he records an entry in his “Journal of Tears.”
The profound point of this verse is that God always notices our pain…and he never wastes it. Even though we often do! We are so taken up by the grief, fear, regret, or shame of the moment, and with that, we fail to ask how God might use that moment to shape us.
Isn’t this exactly what Paul was saying in Romans 5:3-5?
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (NRSV)
This season of shutdown brings varying levels of pain for different folks. Some are relatively untouched; some have had their lives entirely upended. Regardless, what a shame it would be to waste that pain! God is so great that he can take suffering and, through a proprietary process that he alone has mastered, convert that suffering into hope…a hope that never disappoints.
Among my many prayers during this season is that we will not waste what God has accomplished in our church during and because of this time. What is it that he wants to teach us about? How to be the Church going forward?
I am asking the Lord to do the same thing in me, too. “God, what do you want to teach me through this? How do you want to shape me?” It would be such a shame if we were to waste this pain!
Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, would you comfort me with the thought that you can take all things…even our pain and suffering…and make good use of it. Thank you that you collect our tears and journal our sufferings. Now, Lord, convert that suffering to endurance…and that to character…and that to an inextinguishable hope! Only you can do such a thing, Lord. Do it in me, I pray. Amen.