I used to respond to pain and suffering by actively refocusing my mind, determined to have a positive attitude. But doing so left me even emptier and unhappier than before. Then I realized that Scripture never mandates that we constantly act upbeat. God wants us to come to him in truth. The Bible doesn’t whitewash the raw emotions of its writers as they cry out to God in anguish, fear, and frustration when life ceases to make sense. People like Jeremiah, Job, Habakkuk, and David have all poured out their honest feelings of sadness and disappointment to God.
For example, Jeremiah protests to God, “Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry” (Jer. 15:18). And Job complains, “I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. My bitter soul must complain. . . . then you shatter me with dreams and terrify me with visions. I would rather be strangled—rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and don’t want to go on living” (Job 7:11, 14–16).
The Bible is shockingly honest. And because of that, I can be honest as well. I can both complain and cry, knowing that God can handle anything I say. The Lord wants me to talk to him, to pour out my heart and my thoughts unedited because he knows them already. Pouring out my heart to God changes me. I can experience true joy only after I have acknowledged my sorrow. And when I do, I find myself in a deeper place with the Lord, who helps me reframe my disappointments and pain.
Vaneetha Rendall Risner is the author of The Scars That Have Shaped Me and is a regular contributor to DesiringGod.org. Excerpted from The Scars That Have Shaped Me, © Vaneetha Rendall Risner 2016, used by permission.