Have you ever found yourself asking “Where is God when it hurts?” When we’re walking through a season of life where we feel like our prayers aren’t being answered, it can be hard to remember that God is with us. Our guest today, Dr. Michelle Bengtson, shares her vulnerable story about writing her new book “The Hem of His Garment: Reaching Out to God When Pain Overwhelms” in the midst of pain.
She opens up about processing pain in a way that honors that God is good, how to keep the faith when life is hard, and what we should (and shouldn’t do) in a painful situation. Her story is a reminder that God wants us to depend on Him and He is oftentimes doing greater work than what we are focusing on.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
- [06:25] Dr. Michelle’s experience of writing her latest book during the midst of pain
- [10:36] How to keep our mind on God while also being present to what we are feeling
- [13:20] The gift of lament
- [17:40] What The Book of Job can teach us about our prayers not being answered
- [23:13] “Flipping the script” on faulty thinking + common lies
- [27:23] 3 things you shouldn’t do when you’re in a painful situation
- [28:58] Dr. Michelle’s advice on what to do instead
- [32:27] Alicia’s takeaways and reflections
[06:25] Dr. Michelle’s experience of writing her latest book during a season of pain
Dr. Michelle wrote “The Hem of His Garment: Reaching Out to God When Pain Overwhelms” in a painful season of life which led her to be 100% dependent on God to speak. She has always been open about life’s trials and encourages people to keep their focus on God, regardless of what they go through. Her publisher asked her to write a book on pain because they recognized that people connected with her authenticity and vulnerability. At first, she did not want to but it was not long before she felt the Lord in her heart saying “You will let me use you or I will use someone else.” And she wanted to be obedient more than comfortable.
It was an interesting dynamic to write a book on pain while the act of writing also brought her physical pain. The biggest lesson she has learned through this journey is how very little control we have in this life. We get to choose whether or not we are going to depend on God or we are going to walk away. She has found that walking away is less profitable than choosing to lean in.
[13:20] How is lament a gift?
When we are in pain we can fall prey to the temptation to isolate from God and others. We can find ourselves listening to lies like, “they do not understand” or “they are tired of hearing about it”. Dr. Michelle reminds us that this is a tactic of the enemy and the enemy has used isolation to cause division, depression, and loneliness over the past few years.
The gift of lament allows us to acknowledge how hard it is and to recognize that God is big enough to handle our questions, concerns, and fears. We can still share what we are going through with others, but she has found that it is better to go deep with a smaller group of people.
Alicia reminds us that lament also keeps us real before God. When we are walking through pain the world tells us to put on a happy face and get through it but we can be honest with God and share how much it hurts.
[17:40] What The Book of Job can teach us about our prayers not being answered
It can be difficult when you are praying, nothing is happening, and then people are commenting “That must mean that you have unconfessed sin in your life” This leads to the secondary pain of shame, guilt, and regret. Even within the church, we get messages that if we are praying and nothing is happening, that tells more about us than it does about God.
Dr. Michelle has been studying the book of Job and she landed on two things that can help us with this. The first verse in the first chapter says “This man was blameless and upright before the Lord.” We then see that he endured physical, emotional, relational, financial, and spiritual pain. This shows us that it was not Job’s fault.
The second takeaway is that when we long for healing in any of those areas, we are praying, and we do not see it, this probably means that God is doing a greater work than what we are focusing on. We have to be careful to not idolize the healing when we should be looking at the healer. Scripture tells us that God never withholds any good thing from His children. Dr. Michelle has learned that God is often healing areas that He deems more important for her. That is where we have to continue to trust God's way as best.
She also reminds us that if we were quickly healed, we would go about our lives and forget about what He did for us. The greatest lesson she has learned is how dependent He wants her to be on Him. He does not want her to take on all of this alone and the pain keeps her tethered to Him in a way that she would not be if she was pain-free.
[23:13] “Flipping the script” on faulty thinking + common lies
We must pay attention to the thoughts that we are having because pain will take us to a dark place if we let it. That makes us very vulnerable to common lies like:
- “God has abandoned me”
- “If God loved me, he would not have let this happen”
- “God is not listening to my prayers”
But those do not align with the truth of God's Word. So the idea of flipping the script is being alert to the thoughts that we are having in the midst of our pain and then asking:
- Where did that thought come from?
- Does it align with the truth of God's Word?
To flip the script on “God has abandoned me” we go to Deuteronomy 31:6 which says, “God never leaves us nor forsakes us.” When we feel like God is not there when we need Him most, we remember that He promised to never leave.
The idea that “If God loved me, he would not let this happen.” is inconsistent with the truth of God. He says, “In this world, you will experience trials, but take heart because I have overcome this world, this world is not all that there is.” We are going to experience trials and this does not mean that God does not love us. To flip the script we have to remember that this is part of living in a fallen world and we get to choose whether or not we are going to hold onto God through the storm.
When we struggle with thinking “God is not listening to my prayers” we go to Psalm 116:2 which says, “I will call on Him as long as I live because He has turned His ear to me.” We have to trust that God's answer is what is best for us.
[27:23] 4 things you shouldn’t do when you’re in a painful situation
One of the biggest things you should not do in a painful situation is isolate. As we talked about before the enemy wants us to isolate ourselves from people who can be supportive and from God.
When you are in pain, do not give up. Dr. Michelle thinks that the enemy wants to tempt us to give up right before our breakthrough. We do not know when that breakthrough is going to come but if we give up we miss out on the blessing of what God wants to do.
Try not to make any major decisions during a period of pain. When we are in pain, we have a tendency to make decisions based on our feelings. Our feelings are fleeting and the circumstances will change.
The last thing we should avoid is over-extending ourselves. We live in a society that says “The more we do, the better.” This is not consistent with God's word and He gives us rest, not to punish us but to help us. So if you need to rest to allow yourself to refuel and replenish, do so.
[28:58] Dr. Michelle’s advice on what to do instead
Dr. Michelle tells us to live one moment at a time and that sometimes we have to ask God for the grace to live for the next five minutes. Pain causes us to look back longing for what used to be and to look forward and forecast that our life is always going to be that way. The truth is we do not know what tomorrow brings but we do not have to bring tomorrow's trouble into today’s painful experience.
Make sure to extend yourself the same grace that you would extend a good friend. Too often we are the ones putting pressure on ourselves, not God.
She also tells us to seek opportunities to serve others even in our pain. Scripture says that those who refresh others will be refreshed. Our pain tends to make us focus inward on ourselves which leads to self-pity and victim mentality. Serving others can be as simple as going to the grocery store and grabbing something for a friend who is going through a difficult time. Or texting someone who is in a lot of pain and asking how they are feeling. And because of God's Kingdom economy, he can not help but bless you for being a blessing.
[32:27] Alicia’s takeaways and reflections
Alicia shares that the topic of lament versus complaining made a huge difference for her. When she thought that God did not want her to complain, it kept her from sharing with Him how upset she was. Lament gives us the space to acknowledge the reality that life is hard. Understanding that alone can bring so much help when we are trying to muddle through that valley of pain. She also loved that Dr. Michelle talked about how our emotions do not trump the truth but they do need to be expressed and processed. At the end of the day, we get to decide if we are going to dwell on them.
Connect with Dr. Michelle:
OTHER RELATED EPISODES:
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