Even When It Hurts

November 21, 2018

 

Take these ocean tears

Hold me through the trial

Come like hope again

Even when the fight seems lost

I'll praise you

Even when it hurts like hell

I'll praise you

Even when it makes no sense to sing

Louder then I'll sing your praise - Hillsong

 

We circle for prayer before the meal. Much like a half time locker room moment of a football team losing 48-0, after giving it everything they’ve got.

 

The enemy dug his claws deep into our church this year and relentlessly attacked. We were walking wounded. I’d been praying for an end to, or at least an escape  from, this spiritual battle, but none came. And here we were. 

 

I looked around my living room and spoke these words of encouragement to weary church leaders:

 

"With all of the conflicts and trials of this year, I confess I have not handled them well. I’ve cried a lot and spent many days in bed in dark depression, unable to cope. I’ve been hurt and angry, and I want to be honest and vulnerable with you because I believe there is healing in confession. I know all of us have been affected by this current situation, and we are all hurting. 

 

Jesus is familiar with similar betrayals and accusations and suffering. At the Last Supper, 

He knew His biggest trial of suffering was before Him. 

 

On the night Jesus was betrayed, he took some bread and gave thanks to God. He gave thanks knowing He was about to be betrayed by one of His own disciples.

 

Euscharisteo, the Eucharist, means thanksgiving. But tucked in that one Greek word are others like charis (grace/gift), and chara (joy). 

 

Grace. Thanksgiving. Joy. Eucharisteo. 

 

When we come around the table, we can give thanks in the middle of our hurt and for our hurt. Because God is up to something greater. 

 

Ann Voskamp* writes beautifully in her book 1000 Gifts  about the Euscharisteo:

 

“Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him and crush Him and wound Him and yield a bounty of joy (chara) … In the midst of what seems a mess, in the tripping up and stumbling down of all hopes, Jesus gives thanks …”

 

Jesus sees His trial as a gift that will bring joy. He gives thanks before His own torturous death knowing the resurrection miracle is coming.

 

“Eucharisteo - thanksgiving - always precedes the miracle.”

 

In the middle of our darkest and deepest pain, could there be gifts for us to receive that we wouldn’t be able to receive had we not been through this trial and were willing to give thanks for it?

 

What is God birthing out of this current darkness?"

 

I finish my little talk by naming gifts God has given me from this season: How I’ve clung to Christ, digging deeper into truth, the quiet strength and confidence to face my fears, an opportunity to practice love and forgiveness with those who’ve hurt me, the ability to acquaint myself with Christ in His suffering. A peace that passes all understanding. And a healing from depression as I’ve confessed my pain and thanked Him for it. Had it not been for this dark place, I would not have had an opportunity to practice thanksgiving and receive these gifts. 

 

Many times, I was tempted to sit in my hurt, carry bitterness, anger, and rage instead. To burrow deeper into darkness, like a trapped wounded animal who lashes out at anyone who tries to reach in and help. We can always choose to receive that. But today, I choose the gifts.

 

I invite others around the circle to name gifts they’ve received in these darkest places. 

 

I’m undone by the miraculous gifts they name as we go around the room, God’s presence invited into our pain: the betrayals, the broken relationships, the deception, the lies and attacks of the enemy. God’s miracle peeks around the corner and resurrects our hearts and lives in this shared experience of His goodness in the middle of the mess.

 

We praise God as the deep miraculous healing work of thanksgiving begins.

 

For the next few hours, as we eat around the common table, this shared experience unites us. Warm laughter and conversations bring joy and connection. A new community emerges from the ashes. I am glad to share my table and my life with them.

 

 

 

 

 

That next morning, my friend Marie says: “I came home late last night and all the lights were off, but as soon as I walked on the property, the smell of your holiday candles was overwhelming! I can’t believe how strong it was.”

 

Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 2:15 come to mind:

 

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

 

As that aroma lingers on my property, I pray for God’s fragrance to infuse my life and church as we move into a season of God’s resurrection miracles. 

 

And I will sing till the morning has come

And I will sing till the miracle comes

I will only sing your praise

Even when the morning comes

I'll praise you

Even when the fight is won

I'll praise you

Even when my time on earth is done

Louder then I'll sing your praise - Hillsong

 

 

16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

 

 

*Thank you, Ann Voskamp for your amazing insight into the Eucharisteo which I was able to share with my church leadership. 

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