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This, too, shall pass

When our feelings are hurt, how can we deal with the pain in a holy way? Amelia explains how to cope when our own will is different from God's.
Feelings aren't everything. Just because we feel strongly about certain things in life, it doesn't mean the things we want are meant to be.

The Lord has a will for each of us, and we have to make sure that His will is the one that guides us, not our own. When we pray the Lord's Prayer and say, "Thy will be done," do we mean it? What if His will is different from our own—do we still desire that God's will be done if it means we have to abandon ours? What if we feel very strongly about our will?

Doors close, roads end, hearts break—but our faith should never suffer on account of those things. In preserving our faith during difficult times, sometimes we have to make decisions that go against our desires; other times, we have to accept situations over which we realized we didn't have control. No matter what our difficulty, God is our comfort in every affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When we turn to Him for solace, if we really trust Him, He soothes our souls immediately. Our feelings and our thoughts may hurt for a while longer, but a heart that trusts in the Lord receives His comfort right away. It knows, as the wise King Solomon said, that "this, too, shall pass."

Often, our biggest obstacle to trusting God wholeheartedly is that we don't want to let go of our will. We don't want to see the dreams we've planned slip away, but it's only because we're so attached to them that we can't imagine God having anything better in store for us. If our whole heart is invested in something we want, something we feel, then our prayer of "Thy will be done" isn't truly sincere. It sounds like a nice thing to say to God, but we don't really mean it. What we mean instead is, "God, grant me my will."

Sometimes it seems like the closer we are to God—the more we believe, the more pious we try to be—the more we find ourselves in the face of worldly struggles. It's not because our prayers aren't working or that God doesn't care; in fact, it's the opposite. When we move closer to God, we simultaneously move farther away from all that goes against His will. Our own will isn't always unholy, necessarily, but sometimes there are multiple high-roads we can travel, and it's the Lord's call which one suits us the best.

Among all the other things that this earthly life is, it's a series of opportunities, chances to strengthen our faith and demonstrate our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Our biggest opportunities for growth, as Christians, come when we choose what would be right instead of what would feel good at the moment. Sometimes choosing what's right involves suffering in one way or another and accepting that suffering with a happy heart, knowing that it's what God has chosen for us. We don't have to understand why, because we know that His will is never meant to punish us. He's a God of love, and in His love for us, He knows what we need. If we have to suffer while staying on His path, it's a holy suffering. It means God is sparing us from a far worse kind of pain that we might not have seen coming, or one that we might not have known how to escape.

Productive pain.

According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, Thy consolations brought gladness unto my soul.
— Psalm 93, Septuagint

The pain from holy suffering doesn't destroy us but makes us stronger. Also, it always passes. The kind of pain that doesn't go away is the kind that results from fighting what our heavenly Father has planned for us. When we stay close to Him, He watches out for us and doesn't let us travel too far down any path that He knows to be wrong for us. That's why we don't always get what we ask for in prayer; we get what we need, although it may not necessarily be what we want. At the time, it might even seem cruel or like He doesn't care, but we should know better than to believe that. When God doesn't grant us something we ask of Him in prayer, it means He has something better on the way for us—something more beneficial for our souls, more profitable toward our salvation.

For many of us, it's a lifelong battle of learning to be content with what the Lord gives and doesn't give, as well as with what He takes away. It only becomes more difficult when we allow our feelings to grow excessively powerful, and when we form attachments to things and people other than Him. That's not saying we can't enjoy life or be interested in anything other than theology, but we have to keep those extra things in check. And it's definitely not saying that we can't love others besides God, but we have to make sure that we don't infer love where only strong feelings are present. Intensity doesn't necessarily equal love. If our love for others is Christian and moral, then there's no such thing as loving too much. Holy love will never stand in the way of God's will for us, because holy love is His will for us. It's also the kind of love that will never leave us broken-hearted, because holy love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8). If the love we feel is completely selfless, it can never hurt the self. If love ever turns sour or causes pain, then, it's not really love. The problem often lies in confusing the strength and intensity of our feelings with the quality and purity of them.

Suffering can easily deceive us when we're in the middle of it. It can make us think we have no way out, and when we feel that way we can become desperate. If we feel hopeless or desperate in our struggles, it's a sure indication that our suffering is in vain rather than holy. It's a sign that we're suffering over something that isn't or cannot be. It's a sign that we're longing for something that's not within the Lord's will for us, at least not at the time. If we're going against the Lord's will, however, we're right about one thing: There isn't any way out. If we want God's help, we can't fight His will.

When we walk with God, we find all the hope we need in order to endure whatever struggles come our way. Being Christian doesn't mean we'll never have heartaches or headaches, but it means trusting in the reality that God is only letting us experience what He knows we need in order to become better people, holy people. Sometimes we can't understand what He's doing, but that's what trust is—following in blind faith because we know and believe that Someone else knows better than we do.

Aligning our will with God's is our highest calling, the most productive goal on which we can set our sights. Protecting our feelings, on the other hand, isn't. We can't always control what happens in our lives, and we can't always control how those things make us feel. That's why it's in vain if we live our lives for the sole reason of pursuing happiness on earth; it's not always possible to be happy, and it's not always possible to protect our feelings. What we can protect, however, is how much we let our feelings influence our behavior and our quality of life.

The quickest path to true joy is the willful sacrifice of certain temporary instances of happiness. Good feelings come and go, but the joy that comes from being at peace with God's will lasts into eternity. If we strive toward being content with what the Lord gives, rather than striving to make Him give what He won't, in time we'll find that the Lord very frequently spares our feelings, too.

It's not difficult to align our will with God's; what's difficult is finding the desire and courage to do so.