Who first said “Time heals all wounds”? Was it Shakespeare?
Whoever it was, they lied. Wounds don’t simply go away, they need dealing with.
It’s one of those revolting bromides that serve only the speaker in the face of another’s pain. A platitude surely sibling to other such unhelpful phrases as:
“It could be worse! Lucky you.”
Or, “It’s not as bad as you think.”
Or, “Calm down, getting upset isn’t going to help.”
Or, “I’m sure they didn’t mean it.”
Or, “Brave girl, no more tears!”
Or finally, “Don’t cry, dear heart. The milk is spilt.”
What is it about another’s suffering that plants in the human heart such a profound desire to minimise? Isn’t it just about the discomfort of the observer?
Ironically, Christians can be among the worst offenders.
“Well, praise the Lord!“ They beam as you weep your guts out. “God is in control and He will bring all things together for good!”
I could slap them.
Don’t you remember that there were three days between the Cross and the Resurrection? Three days of utter darkness and total despair? Disbelief, doubt, desolation, abandonment, disillusion? There was no whisper from Heaven, “Hold on, y’all! Sunday’s coming!”
When Jesus went to raise Lazarus, he didn’t arrive with a brass band to shout: “Dry your tears! Weep no more! I’m here to save the day!” Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Jesus wept, loud noisy agonised snorting tears at the plight of his deceased friend and the beloved bereaved.
So what is to be my healthy response to my own suffering?
What happens now, when I’m brought back “to the scene of the crime” as an adult? I’m a grown up now, surely I can handle it?
And I have, for a time.
But then I feel boxed in and desperate, choking. And the wounded child within me seeing no escape, finds their only release is to scream.
SCREAM blue, bloody murder. It’s ugly, and wild, and hurtful.
“Don’t scream like that!” A trusted friend says. “You’ve got to stop. It won’t produce the result you want.”
How sound and how rational that is from their position on the sidelines. But the child within me is in battle. Hurled back into the lifelong nightmares of my childhood and no amount of maturity is going to wipe that slate clean. Because it’s not about me. It’s about the others.
Sometimes suffering produces a train wreck. And you must not be scared by that. Suffering is hugely messy.
Faced with no way out and no discernible options, the child within you can scream and scream and s-c-r-e-a-m, no matter the age they are now. I’m sure that screaming is not productive in moving toward resolution. I’m sure it’s not mature. I’m sure it’s not shrewd.
But it is raw.
And so so so necessary. There might be a lifetime of screaming down there which needs to be released.
Being told to change course, or to alter your reaction to produce a better result, is meaningless in the face of soul-destroying, screaming, stifling anguish. You are who you are. I know I am. Still. And the suffering is what it is.
I need the grace of Christ to allow me to scream. Not the well-meaning advice of friends who tell me to stop or who have a better strategy. Who think it can do me no good to scream.
Because I can tell you this. Suffering suffers no stratagem. It grabs you by the guts and screams at you, “LISTEN TO MEEEEE! I AM DYING!”
And, in suffering, part of you is. You are dying to what you thought your life would be. You are dying to how you wanted to be loved and known. You are dying to hopes, expectations, dreams. You are dying to the person you have lost and perhaps never had. You are dying to what was not, in order to come into an acceptance of what is.
There are no shortcuts.
And unless in suffering you do die to all these things, nothing can grow from it.
“Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Suffering refuses to rush toward resolution. It doesn’t care about your comfort, it’s trying to heal you. So we must be willing to sit in the agony of it – our own and others’ – to wait for redemption. No matter how the rest of the world views it. Suffering can be a lonely place.
And redemption won’t come quickly, because it follows due process. In fact it may not come at all.
But to deny the suffering itself? How can that help anyone?
What I long for is freedom. Freedom beyond the pain.
And, as John Wimber used to say, ‘The way in is the way on.’