There’s No Bow: Learning To Lean In To Pain

I was recently sharing my story with a group of folks exploring faith and asking questions about why God allows bad things happen. One of their questions really struck me, “Melissa, how do you reconcile your husband’s death with God?”

I took a moment to gather my thoughts, then promptly blurted out, “I don’t.” I went on to explain that so often we want to “tie a bow” on tragic circumstances, we want to make everything better and all wrapped up in a pretty package. Unfortunately, Christians can be the worst offenders. We ask God to take away our pain, to fix our troubles. He certainly can do that. He can do anything. But there are some circumstances and experiences that will never have a “bow.” And God never promised to make things easy or perfect or pain-free. He promised to be with us.

I can certainly testify He is with us.

I remember my grief counselor telling me early on in my journey that loosing a spouse was much like loosing a limb. You don’t get it back, you just learn to live without it.

I’ve learned to live without my spouse. Some days it’s quite laughable to see how different my life is now.

I’m healed, but the scar is still there. I’ll never forget the deep pain of loving deeply and loosing deeply.

Still, I’ve learned there’s a difference between acknowledging pain and being paralyzed by it.

I spent a few years paralyzed by pain. Quite honestly, I wanted to check pain off my “to do” list.” I wanted to heal, I wanted to move forward. I wanted God to script a new story. All I ended up doing was getting stuck trying to live a new story without allowing God to leverage my pain as a part of it. A few months back, I finally had my “ah-ha” moment as I wrote this phrase above in my journal.

I realize there is purpose in my pain.

It’s a sort-of juxtaposition that’s difficult to explain to those who have not experienced loss. The pain has transformed me; it’s made me more empathetic, it’s driven me so much more in love with my Savior Jesus, it’s given me a depth as a person that I never knew existed.

Most of all, it’s given me the courage to lean in to others’ pain.
To lean in to pain.

That in itself seems counter to our culture. Why on earth would I lean in to others’ pain and hurt when I’ve only just recovered from my own?

Now full disclosure, I don’t choose to lean into everybody’s pain. Quite honestly, I couldn’t just handle that. But I get these nudges every so often. And I’ll sense that God has uniquely placed someone hurting on my path. I’ve learned that if I just lean toward this person, even just a little bit, despite my hesitancy and fear, my all-knowing God shows up in the midst of it.

I’ve realized in those moments that He’s calling me to lean in, to meet folks right where they are. Leaning in often means just showing up, showing concern, giving a word of encouragement. He’s not calling me to take away this person’s pain. He’s not calling me to determine the outcome. He’s not calling me to have all the answers, or even any answer at all.

I hear Him whisper to me gently, “You know what’s it’s like to experience deep pain. Meet this person there. Love this person there. Pray for this person there.”

It’s uncomfortable at times. Sometimes it can be exhausting and sometimes I just want to wave a magic wand and fix it. There’s times I don’t always get it right.


There’s grace for the attempt. There’s grace in knowing that it’s not up to me to carry this person’s pain. Christ has already done that on the cross. And His ultimate promise is that He will always be with us…no matter the triumph or the pain.

I have my sweet friend Courtney, who is also a young widow, to thank for helping me to see my own experience with pain differently. She reminded me a few months back that pain and the darkness that surrounds it has a way of making the light of Jesus shine that much more brighter.

There is purpose in pain. And there’s no greater purpose than shining light on our Savior.

Dearly loved, leaning in,

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