by SUSAN E. RICHARDSON
“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:11).
In 2008 I wrote an article called “And Sometimes I Feel Like a Chewed Petunia” for Metro Christian Living about the ways life can yank us up and chew us down. I told my story of peer abuse, comparing my life to a petunia my dog, Libby, had pulled out of its pot and chewed to the roots. The petunia survived to bloom, and I did, too, after God led me through a period of healing and growth.*
My journey began in a place I didn’t choose, with pain I didn’t want. We don’t choose how people or circumstances rip up our lives and leave jagged holes in our sense of self. The pain that follows is not our choice, but something we must learn to live through and around. Whether we’ve suffered abuse, betrayal, or some other trauma, something turns our world upside down.
When something or someone first rips us up, the shock and pain often prevents us from seeing anything around us. Intense pain pulls the focus inward. Just bearing the pain requires all our resources. We may live for years coping as best we can.
School was like that for me. I never knew from the time I got on the bus in the morning until I returned home in the afternoon when my peers might verbally attack me. I tried developing different ways to deal with the pain and uncertainty. Sometimes I overachieved. Often I underachieved so my grades wouldn’t make me a target. I tried becoming invisible and staying out of the way. Occasionally I tried to stand up and retaliate, but that didn’t work, either.
My attempts reflected the stages of grief, where shock and denial come first. Shock numbs us to the damage and denial leads us to try to fix things on our own, because, after all, nothing is really wrong. Eventually anger moves in, as it did for me. I lived many years angry with God and estranged from Him even though I went through the motions of living a Christian life. Since we may grieve several things at once, the stages don’t stay neatly arranged in order. Over the years I bounced around through a range of painful emotions.
Anger leads to depression, and often that brings us to a place where we recognize we need help. The Scripture above from Job shows us the way forward. He says, “I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit.” We each must choose to speak of what caused our pain. Doing so puts whatever situation we’re facing out into the open. We can see issues better ourselves, but someone else may be able to help us see them, too.
When I knew I needed to talk about my pain, I chose to work with a Christian counselor. She gave me direction and insight I couldn’t find on my own. Choosing counseling can be a good decision. We need someone who has been through these areas before, who knows that, though we may not follow the exact path others have used, a way to healing does exist.
Something powerful happens when we put events into specific words. What method might work for you? You can journal, as I’ve often done, using the computer because I can type more quickly than I can write. Others prefer the slower, more contemplative process of handwriting thoughts.
Do you have a friend you can trust with your story? Not everyone can handle hearing another’s pain, so choose carefully. If you’re not sure, share small pieces and be sure the person is safe. Or simply spend time alone with God verbalizing your story. Speak to Him aloud or use a prayer journal.
In the mess of what fallen humans choose to do in this world, God can heal what has been broken. When the evil in this world yanks a human petunia out of his or her pot, God is there. He is here now, listening.
Father, give us the strength and courage to speak our pain, whether to You or another person. Draw us closer to You and bring us healing. We put ourselves into Your hands.
(*To get started with the full chewed petunias story, please visit www.chewedpetunias.com. You’ll find the story plus other material that may help you along the way.)