I used to pray that God would protect me, and by that I meant protect me from hurt and harm. He didn't, and I felt betrayed by that. I didn't know how to interpret his seeming refusal to help me. It seemed to me that God wanted me to be high and holy, untouched by petty things like emotions...yet I couldn't seem to get there.
It's easy to think that God doesn't really know much about hurt. Of course, he suffered on the cross, which was pretty painful, but after all, he is all-powerful and all-good. He can choose the hard good because he wants it. Nothing is imposed on him, and his good desires make him free from the struggle we so often have between what we know is good and what we want. It seems that the things that hurt us don't really have power over him.
But we don't have the smallest inkling of how it hurts to love. To love deeply and well, to give and not expect in return, to accept the deliberate hurt along with the thoughtless slight, to accept not being known and loved back - and keep on loving - stretches the fabric of omnipotence, and omniscience, and Goodness. It stretches all that God is right out to the breaking point...and still he does not break. He does not release himself from the hurt. He bears the tension of it, and his beauty and His glory are revealed in his continuing to love those who defy him, or worse, the indifferent.
God hurts as we cannot imagine hurting. His pain is not less because he does not run from it; it is deeper and more awful than we would ever agree to.
We who would know God must learn something of his hurting heart. We cannot understand his wisdom or his strength or his great, warm heart without being torn apart by the things that made him the Man of Sorrows.
O break my heart; break it victorious God,
That life’s eternal well may flash abroad;
O let it break as when the captive trees,
Breaking cold bonds, regain their liberties;
And as thought’s sacred grove to life is springing,
Be joys, like birds, their hope, Thy victory singing. —Thomas Toke Bunch
Our hurt, and our willingness to hurt, are precious to God. He wants our emotions and our weakness and our deep shame; he wants our brokenness; he wants us to have them, and to be willing to be torn by them, and to lay them down before him. There are ways to escape hurt, ways to cover weakness - but in our hurt we learn God's broken-open heart...that heart that knelt in Gethsemane and wept and begged and yet bowed all of its questions and fears and laid them at the feet of him who is called Love. We learn the cost of all he gives, and all he lets us give. It wasn't being able to run away that gave Jesus victory; it was the will to bow. This is our victory too.
Here's the thing: we only know what God is giving us, and its value, when we experience the cost of giving it. The maturity that grows out of wrenching hurt is what lets us receive things of value, and know what they are, and understand what it has cost God to give them. Love is willingness to hurt. Hurt lets us know what love is. The great, deep hurt of loving is ultimately what allows us to receive the thing that will heal us. What a paradox.
Yes, God's holiness and his goodness and his relentless love will stomp all over us, and we will bleed. But, oh - we shall know God. And will he not heal us? Let us go to him, afraid by times, and crying by times. Let us go to him. Let us share the deep, hurt heart of the One who Loves.