joy & peace

Much resonated with my heart while reading the book Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rinehart:

I can still remember the sense of hope I felt when I got to the end of the book and watched Much Afraid discover that as she accepted those strange companions [Sorrow and Suffering] their names were changed to Joy and Peace.  They became her guides; they shaped her soul.  It was my first inkling of a bedrock principle of the heart:  If you want to have real joy in life, then be willing to let pain tutor your soul.  [emphasis added.]

I need to deal with pain so it can deal with me!  Sadly many do just the opposite => burying, diminishing, or ignoring painful emotions in the hope they will simply go away.  It does not work that way as the author (a therapist by trade) attests.

In the healing of the heart and body, the same paradox is at work:  If you step into the pain, you find it lessens.  The screaming wound is slowly transformed into an old scar – more sensitive to the touch, perhaps, but the ache is dulled and occasional.  The fear does not control you.

It turns out that playing it safe, at least in matters of the heart, is the most dangerous thing you can do.  By that route, you become a butterfly pinned to the wall, with wonderful colors and all kinds of potential but going nowhere.  Your wings are clipped.  To really fly, you must claim the courage to live out of your real self, the one God called into being.  [emphasis added.]

She also stressed the importance of journaling and solitude:

Even if you only pick up paper and pencil when something is needling you, journaling pays some of the richest returns in discovering your heart.  “How else can we learn about ourselves if not by forcing our hands to tell the truth about our hearts?”  Nicole Johnson writes.  It is incredible to see the way feelings and conclusions you did not know you even had slip out the end of a pencil.  Then you know how much more to pray.  Journaling is like a farmer tilling the soil – only this is the earth of your life that’s being tilled.  The seeds of truth sink in much deeper, and God shapes wisdom in your heart.  [emphasis added.]

And some advice for those of you intimidated by the very thought of journaling:

Let me encourage you that journaling is not like any other kind of writing you ever do.  It’s not an essay or anything that has to look polished.  In journaling, you don’t think so hard.  You just take an open-ended sentence like, “What’s bothering me about this situation is…” and you begin to write.  And you write and write until all your feelings and thoughts are spent.  It helps to write out the worst of how you are feeling – all of the crummy parts you hope no one ever finds, the embarassing-to-read stuff.  Then ask God to give you some insight and begin to write again – only this time, with the reassuring truths you sense God would say to you in the place where you’re stuck.

I would like to add that a book such as THIS ONE can be very helpful especially if you are not familiar with God’s word.  It was where I sought “reassuring truths” when facing my own overwhelming season of pain and loss.  I think that is why the first passage struck me so deeply… as Much Afraid accepted Sorrow and Suffering as her companions on the journey, their names were changed to Joy and Peace.

© Tina Vega Photography

The above image features two different words I had prayerfully chosen as part of my annual One Little Word challenge.  As I worked through my own sorrow and suffering, I grieved and allowed God’s reassuring truths bring me to a place of wholeness.  Journaling through the experience just as the author described, was key to my emotional healing.

The author also shared the poignant connection between working through pain and living life with passion.

Passion is a two-sided coin on which joy is wedded, inextricably, to sorrow, and wisdom is purchased at the feet of suffering.  You won’t know many moments of being Cinderella at the ball without sweeping up your own pile of ashes and cinders.  The real prizes are never cheap.

Interestingly enough, the Latin origin of the word passion is pati, which means “to suffer.”  When I look at my own life story, the passion I have for photography was BORN out of that very season of overwhelming pain and loss mentioned earlier.  Never planned for or expected many of the roads traveled but I am ever grateful for where I am today.  Looking back, I would not change a thing.

If you find yourself struggling with emotions (or lack of emotions because of stuffing things down for so long), perhaps it’s time to put pencil to paper and let pain tutor your soul.

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