Unprocessed Pain

When pain comes our theology can impede our dialog with God. When this happens anger and frustration often comes out sideways. Moses witnessed this phenomenon first hand:
So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, "In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?" Moses also said, "You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD." (Exodus 16:6-8)
Authority figures are often the targets for the venting of anger and frustration. During many intense trials I have sometimes gone this route. Here is the way I have often processed pain:

  1. Something really bad has happened and I am in pain - I am devastated.
  2. I am angry and frustrated ... this is not how life is supposed to be.
  3. I look at the cross and see God's love for me ... how can I be mad at Him?
  4. I stuff my pain, anger and frustration deep inside of me.
  5. I pray religious prayers ... God I know you will work this for good ... I know you love me ... please help me.
  6. Pain percolates on the inside ... periodically bubbles up in speech ... bitterness is taking root.
  7. I begin to find fault with authority figures ... the pain and injustice is overwhelming me.
  8. Bitterness takes hold of me and I become cynical and skeptical about all things church.
  9. I identify with and I am identified by my pain.
  10. Healing doesn't come and affects my relationship with God and people.
I love the Psalms because they give us examples of how people processed their pain with God. Consider a few verses from Psalms 10:
v1: Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

v12: Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.

v14: But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

v17-18: You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.
The end of the psalm is different than the beginning ... many psalms are like this ... it is like you have to process your pain with God before you can get a new perspective on it. I find this to be true with prayer. When you process your pain in prayer in an honest fashion God meets you and helps you. Here is a healthier way to process pain:
  1. Something really bad has happened and I am in pain - I am devastated.
  2. I am angry and frustrated ... this is not how life is supposed to be.
  3. I look at the cross and see God's love for me ... I understand that because He loves me He wants me to share my pain with Him ... even if it means venting my anger and frustration at Him.
  4. As I pray I begin to release my pain and cast my anxiety on Him.
  5. I find others to talk to ... I am transparent and vulnerable ... I am coming out of hiding.
  6. I begin to identify with healing and work with church leaders to help others.
  7. My relationship with God and people moves to another level.
I remember someone once telling me: "It is okay to be mad at God!" It angered me because of my broken theology and unprocessed pain ... pain that came out in a horizontal plane in the form of bitterness towards others. Isaiah prophesied these words about Jesus long before Jesus walked the earth:
"He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed."
Pain can only be dealt with in a vertical plane ... only God is able to handle it because only He bore our sin and our pain ... only He can heal us.


  1. That's real life, right there, K.B.

    I remember as a young Christian reading Psalm 13 for the first time and thinking, "Now THAT guy's got guts!

    I mean, to start your prayer with
    "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?"

    To accuse God of forgetting him? Whoa! As a baby Christian, that just did not compute. But after wrestling with the concept of being that real with God, I found a nearness to Him that blew me away.

    The key for me was that just 5 verses later he says, "I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me."
    I was not expected (or allowed) to stay where I was. I was supposed to get beyond it.

    I wish I could say I have been flawless at practicing this. But alas, my shortcomings and foibles shine through on a daily basis.

    A funny thing, though. I find that I am most prone to becoming critical toward others and God when I am not doing well spiritually. Imagine that.

  2. Because of what Jesus did for us, I do not believe God hides his face from us. If my love for my own son is a small reflection of God's love for a son, then he never turns away. It is me turning from him; hiding in the shadow of selfishness and sin. There are plenty of times when my son is mad at me and turns away; often as I try to help him he thinks I am the source of his pain. We are that child, misplacing our pain. God only wants the best for you and loves you so so much.


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