It Takes Time For Hearts to Heal — Nicole O'Meara
When I woke up from a routine procedure unable to move my legs, I could not understand what had happened. I understood the facts but the whole situation was surreal. Staggering. Preposterous. It literally felt like my mind was breaking.
In time, logic set it and I began the process of accepting my disability. However, my emotions are healing more slowly. Something is still breaking. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read this quote:
“It’s ok if your heart needs more time to accept what your head already knows.”
What a great way to describe what we all feel when we’re suffering.
I realize in my current situation, I am describing a physical suffering. But not all suffering is physical. Recently, a friend told me the issue breaking her mind isn’t a health issue, it’s a family relationship issue. If it feels like something in you is breaking, no matter what the reason, you are not alone.
Even though this is hard and it feels like it will never get better, it will get better. I know this and you know this because history is full of proof.
start with remembering
During trials in the past, it has helped to remember God’s faithfulness through my life. Recalling an attribute of God brings the light of God’s truth into dark situations. When we remember who is in control, that he has made a way for us to live a pain-free eternity with him, and that he is with us in our suffering, we gain strength to endure. We are prone to stay laser focused on the pain we are experiencing. Recalling who God is and what he has done lifts our eyes to the hope of eternity.
But sometimes, recalling God’s faithfulness is only the first step. I have been grateful for God’s presence, completely believing he will continue to be faithful to me while soaking my bedsheets with tears of fear and anxiety.
It is possible to be confident in your faith and feel overwhelmed by fear at the same time.
My head knows that God is good, faithful, and present with me in my suffering. My heart worries that the suffering will get worse, that I’ll be alone in my pain, and that I won’t be able to endure it. Like Jesus, my heart cries out, “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” (Mark 14:36) At the same time, my heart finishes that cry just like my Lord, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” The war inside my heart is exhausting.
When we try and fail to make our hearts believe what our heads already know frustration is the result. Trying harder isn’t the answer.
“But wait,” you say, “This is different.” I hear you. My heart says my current suffering is different too. Each suffering is unique. Situations change with every new trial, but God doesn’t. His faithfulness and consistency make him reliable. We know exactly what to expect from a constant God. So, even though I don’t know how he will be faithful to me in this situation, I can trust that he will.
Here’s a good example. I got COVID two weeks after arriving home from the hospital. The timing was completely nuts! But it happened. And I survived. In fact, God provided a way through COVID that surprised me. I literally could not have imagined that was how it would play out.
Another example, one you are probably more familiar with: manna. God fed the Israelites in the desert in a way they could not imagine. Neither can we! What exactly is manna anyway? And could anyone imagine that God would make it appear on the ground like dew, 6 out of 7 days of every week for 40 years? Um, no.
If God could create an unexpected way for me to survive through COVID, and if he could feed thousands of grumbling Israelites with miracle dew, why do I doubt he will get me through my next hurdle? Sometimes, I don’t doubt. But I worry anyway because I can’t see, can’t even imagine, how he will be faithful. In those moments, we need to remember we don’t have to know how he will be faithful this time (or next time). We can simply trust that he will because he always has.
WAITING IS DOING
We can’t turn off our worries like a light switch. It’s unhealthy to even try. It takes time.
It takes time for emotions to settle and arrive at a steady state of peace and contentment. It takes time to accept the suffering God has allowed us to travel through. Sometimes, we must wait to get to a place where fear isn’t threatening to spill over at any moment. But it can happen.
There will come a day, maybe months from now, when I will arrive at the end of the day and realize I didn’t think of my suffering or fear even once. That day has always come, even when the suffering has been ongoing.
I can’t tell you what to do to get there. But I can tell you what not to do! Don’t do anything. The truth is we can’t make our hearts accept what our heads already know. It’s not something we can do. It is the shaping and molding work of the living God. He will do it.
Eugene Peterson said:
“We stop, whether by choice or through circumstance, so that we can be alert and attentive and receptive to what God is doing in and for us, in and for others, on the way. We wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies.”
No one likes waiting. We grumble as we wait in line at the grocery store. We check our email impatiently as we wait for test results to arrive. Waiting sounds boring, passive, even weak. But what if waiting is actually an act of faith that brings forth good fruit?
Waiting implies something will take time and we can’t always know how long the waiting will last. How long will a hopeful mom-to-be have to wait for those two pink lines to show up on a test strip? Waiting also implies that the wait is finite, it will end. A pregnant mother may know that she’ll have to wait nine months to hold her precious new baby and the waiting may seem eternal, but it will end. Waiting also hints that something will happen without our active involvement. The grocery line will shorten. The infant will grow. Those things will happen. Waiting can bring results without our effort.
The heart-head alignment is not an outcome that you and I can force or even hurry along by simply putting enough effort into it. If we could do something, anything, to make this happen, it would be about our own effort. It would be, to use a churchy word, “works.” This work is in God’s hands. We must wait, being “receptive to what God is doing,” as he brings our hearts into alignment with what our heads already know.
When we fully grasp the truth that waiting is doing the right thing, it is a relief. We can stop struggling. We can stop trying so hard to do “the right thing“ and instead, just throw up our hands and quit trying.
Let’s be honest, when we are suffering, it takes everything we have and with full dependence on God just to make it through the day. When what we know doesn’t match what we feel, throwing up our hands might just be the only thing we can do. Let’s believe it is also the very best thing we can do.
Suffering is hard. The pain, emotional and/or physical, is real. It’ll take time. But it will get better.
In what situation does your heart need more time to accept what your head already knows?
Disclaimer: By no means am I suggesting that waiting is the same thing as ignoring your feelings. Don’t ignore them. I strongly recommend talking with a godly counselor when you are in the midst of suffering. Talking while waiting is not “works.” Godly counseling is a healthy tool given by grace to help us endure.
I love sending my subscribers special goodies and encouragement straight to their inbox. One of those goodies is a list of 12 Verses to Help You Endure. I’d love to send it to you.