WORDS + PHOTOS | JESSICA BILLS
LETTERING | SAM PALENCIA
Do you remember when Eddie Redmayne made us all cry in Les Miserables when he sang “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables?” Well the lyrics begin with “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain that goes on and on.” When it’s all you know, pain feels like it will never end. We believe our lack of employment, a break-up, moving back home, a sick loved-one, or whatever it is will be our reality forever. Rom-coms make heartbreaks seem fun and short, and that’s why I wanted to write to you: to remind you of truth.
When it’s all you see, pain distorts your vision; things aren’t what they seem.
About seven weeks ago I began to learn what it means to literally be broken.
While I was taking pictures at a summer camp in Kodiak, Alaska, I slipped, fell, and ultimately annihilated my left forearm. I had to fly home the next day to California for surgery. The results were two plates, six screws, two scars, and a lifetime of airport pat-downs from TSA.
In those weeks, I struggled. I couldn’t put my hair in a bun, I couldn’t unlock the front door, I couldn’t even eat anything that required a fork and knife. Yes, at 22 my mom was cutting up my food for me.
You become well acquainted with humility when your pride decides to play hide-and-never-be-found.The regret, shame, blame, anxiety, pity, etc. all hit every midnight and would not rest till my neighbor’s rooster woke the hood.
I was left in a faith paradox. I knew I needed God, but He let me fall; He let me break, He didn’t catch me, He didn’t protect me. How could I trust Him?
In those dark three weeks, I repented and stumbled, repented and stumbled, over and over, until hope lit a match. My heart caught a spark.
1 Peter 5:10 says: “Now the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus will personally restore, establish, strengthen and support you after you have suffered a little.”
When a bone breaks, you see a doctor. You have to give 6-8 weeks to rest and let your bones grow back. At some point in the healing process, the fractured bone becomes stronger than the rest of its surrounding bone. Eventually, months later, it evens out and the cells that are repairing the area do such a good job mending that you can’t even tell where the fracture was.
When a heart breaks, we need to let our soul-healer help us (Exodus 15:26).
We need to give ourselves a break (Psalm 46:10) and communicate to others that we need their help to carry the burden (Galatians 6:2). After that rest, rehabilitation, and restoration, the Lord will lift us up (Isaiah 40).
When we surrender pain to Him by letting go of bitterness, envy, anger, etc. the Lord redeems.
You are not broken. That is not your identity. You may have a scar, but that is only a reminder of the empathy and compassion your experiences will add to your ministries and relationships.
So friend, rest in His promises; let them restore you. Have fun with friends. Let yourself be sad for moments. Keep walking this path towards His eternal glory. And remember this God we serve is the only god who makes beauty out of pain (for an example, see the cross).
I’m praying for you.