How God Responds to Our Pain
If you want to catch a glimpse of God’s heart for you, simply watch a mother with her newborn. The hours spent walking the floor as she tries to soothe her little one to sleep. The energy sacrificed to care for her. The joy she feels when the child grows or laughs or simply breathes. Her anguish when her child is sick or in pain.
Nothing tears me up and drives me to pray quite like seeing my daughter struggle. About two and a half years ago she accepted and eight-month paid internship in North Carolina. Eager for an opportunity to venture into the adult world, she left Nebraska with hope-filled anticipation.
Her enthusiasm soon turned into a scary depression, triggered by numerous circumstances. First, she was considerably younger than all her coworkers, which made it difficult for her to form relationships. Second, she was paired with an extremely critical and domineering roommate, which caused my daughter to doubt everything good about herself. Navigating a management role at the age of 19, this was her first time living so far from home, and she was lonely. She struggled to find a faith community and missed her friends and family. As time went on, her feelings of isolation grew, which only served to deepen what we later learned was undiagnosed depression.
Watching her struggle from afar, I felt powerless to help her. I often longed to catch a plane, if for no other reason than to stay close. I wanted to hold her, and in so doing, to shoulder some of her load.
When we’re hurting, like my daughter was, it helps to know we’re not alone. The truth is, if we belong to Jesus, we are never alone, regardless of how we feel. Scripture promises that. The Bible tells us that God is with us, loves us fiercely, and will never leave us. When we feel as if our heart is shredded, when the intensity of our pain steals our words and we find ourselves unable to pray, the Holy Spirit steps in and intercedes for us.
Romans 8:26 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (NIV). Words in the original Greek often convey such richer meaning than our English translations, and that is true here.
When we suffer, and we will, the Spirit closely identifies with our suffering and comes alongside us in a deeply personal, empowering way. The late biblical commentator Matthew Poole phrased it this way: “The word” ‘helps,’ or more accurately, ‘joins to help,’ sunantilambanomai in the Greek, “imports such help, as when another of great strength steps in and sustains the burden that lies too heavy on our shoulders.”
But God does so much more than that. He feels our pain and prays for and with us with “groanings too deep for words” (ESV).
I’ve never understood the depth of this verse, the depth of God’s emotion conveyed by the words Paul chose, until I too prayed and “groaned” for my daughter during her struggle. If God feels even half of what I did, and I know He does, as His love is so much greater than mine, then His heart breaks as well, and His heartbreak spurs Him to action.
God stays with me, offers His strength in place of my weakness, and prays with and for me. He doesn’t let up, nor will He leave until He’s carried me safely to the other side. He will do the same for you.
Let’s talk about this! Do you trust that God is sees you, loves you, and is with you? What are some ways you remind yourself of this truth when life feels hard or frightening?
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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.