“In all their affliction, He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His compassion He redeemed them and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9 One New Man Bible
I want to tell you a story. During my junior year of college, I was visiting my mom’s church when I was home from break, and I felt so depressed and alone. Full of shame. Full of guilt. Surrounded by isolation. I had no hope and saw no reason that life was going to get any better. I breathed and I lived because I had to. I had to get through this, but I was terrified that I would be “getting through this” the rest of my life. That there was no end.
My whole life had kind of been full of pain up to that point. My father had serious mental and emotional instabilities that scarred me before I was even old enough to have memories. He was scary and made me feel very uncomfortable. When he was forced to check himself into some sort of hospital when I was in fourth grade, I was glad he was gone. There was finally a sense of peace and stability in the house. It didn’t last long.
The divorce started the next year, and it was hell. My brother and I constantly had to see lawyers, counselors, and psychiatrists. The majority of them told us that we were being mean to our father, and that he deserved to see us. Did I mention that my father was a master manipulator and skilled at extracting pity from others? Poor man, he was drowning in self-pity. And my brother and I had to pay the price for it.
Those four years, from fifth grade to eighth grade, were some of the worst of my life. Not only is junior high an awkward and painful time to begin with, but I had to contend with best friend abandonment, a terrifying father, counselors, ect. and a brother who dealt with his pain very differently than me. I exploded, he withdrew. I lost everyone during those years except my mother. I didn’t know where God was, but it certainly didn’t seem like He was there with me or that He even cared about my pain.
When the divorce finally ended, my brother and I had to see my dad in a safe house every other week or something like that. It was a house with a police officer and counselors where unstable parents were allowed to see their children. I always brought a book or music or something to do. My brother, my protector, always sat between me and my dad. In the midst of those years of my brother’s silence, those were the times I felt his love the most, but he couldn’t protect my heart from the things my dad said.
“Do you think this is what God wants? He doesn’t want you to treat me like this.”
“This is your mom’s fault. She’s turned you against me.”
“If you don’t have a relationship with me, you’re never going to have a good relationship with your husband.”
You get the idea. I came away from the “safe” house bleeding more and more each time. He was anything but safe.
What turned out to be our last time there, my dad got to me too much, and I got up and ran out of the room. He tried to follow me, but my brother stopped him (I think). After that incident, the police officer and counselor who worked there sent a message to the judge, recommending our visits stop. They said they had never seen a parent work so hard to get under their children’s skin.
So we weren’t forced to see him anymore. But that didn’t stop him from showing up to school and sporting events. When he showed up to my cheerleading at games, I always felt like I was going to throw up. He showed up to my high school graduation and convinced one of our family friends to speak to me for him. So, during my happy graduation party, this well-meaning but manipulated man pulled me aside to tell me how much my dad missed me, and blah blah blah. I seriously kind of wanted to punch him in the face.
Enter college. Enter my ex-boyfriend, who really had no idea of all the hurts and emptiness he was triggering.
I’d never had a boyfriend. I had never truly had a father, and I only had a shallow relationship with my brother because, truthfully, we didn’t really know how to have a relationship with each other. I was primed and ready for a trap from satan and seeking a relationship to heal all the pain I didn’t know was still there. I loved Jesus, I loved God, but I didn’t know how to heal. I didn’t know yet the kind of intimacy you could have with the Father and His Son and Spirit.
So bad relationship. So make-out session because I, on some subconscious level, believed that that’s what love was. So lots more painful and terrible things that I put up with and did because I just wanted to feel like someone cared about me. So break up because obviously that was a bad idea. That relationship ripped open every wound from every empty male relationship I was supposed to but didn’t have in my life. The pain was raw and physically hurt, even in just breathing.
And that’s where I was as I visited the young adult service in my mom’s church on that particular day. I knelt on the ground, bent over, hand clutched to my chest, my face almost touching the floor. Sobbing. Asking God where He was. I could feel the tears dripping down my cheeks, my chin, and the tip of my nose.
All of a sudden, I felt very distinctly three drops of water. They almost seemed to be coming from my hair line, one at the very top of my forehead, and one at the corner of both of my eyes. That didn’t make sense. I was facing the ground so my tears couldn’t have gotten all the way up there. I touched those three places, and my finger came back dry.
I ignored it and kept rocking back and forth on my knees, crying, when the sensation came again. I would have sworn someone was pouring water on the back of my head, and it was running down my face. But still, there was nothing there. My nose and cheeks were wet with tears, but not the top of my forehead or corners of my eyes.
“Lord,” I prayed, “what is this?”
Immediately I saw myself bent over, just how I was, but in this picture Jesus was bent over me, sobbing just as much as I was. And it hit me. I was literally feeling his tears that poured over me. I was feeling physically what was happening in the spiritual realm. Jesus was crying over me. Jesus was crying for me.
He cried for every single bit of pain that I had gone through. He cried because I felt abandoned, alone, defeated, ignored, rejected, dirty, unloved, unlovable…
He cried because of how much His beloved, me, His precious princess, was hurting.
I can’t even put into words what that did to me. Seeing that kind of love. It broke me all over again, but in a way that promised these 20-year-old scars could heal. Jesus was so broken because of what I had gone through. He was hurting so much because I was hurting so much, and I literally got to feel His tears washing over me.
He said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that you have this much pain. I’m so sorry that your heart hurts this much.”
None of this was even His fault. He didn’t force my dad to treat us so poorly. He even tried to help my dad but was rejected. He didn’t cause my brother to respond like that, and He definitely didn’t advise me to get into that relationship. And yet, He said, “I’m sorry,” because He was feeling my pain too.
He didn’t put shame or guilt on me. He didn’t blame me, even after all the times I had blamed Him. There wasn’t even, “Hey cheer up, Sarah. I’m going to heal all of this and use it for your good.”
He just showed me a glimpse of His unconditional, undying love for me.
A pastor I know often talks about how God doesn’t have to always be serious and crying. He is joyful and full of laughter too. I completely agree. However, I’m still at a point in my life where I generally respond to things with crying instead of laughter.
(I haven’t been hit with the Holy Spirit in such a way that I can’t control my laughter. I definitely want that. I long for joy in every part of my life, but I feel like that’s in process.)
I still cry when God speaks to me. I cry when I’m sad, and I cry when I’m happy. And that’s ok. Because He showed me that He cries with me too.
So wherever you are, or whatever you’re going through, Jesus loves you. The Father loves you. If your heart is broken, I promise you His heart is broken too. If you’re angry with Him, be angry, and then let His love come in and rock you peacefully. If you’re crying, He’ll cry with you. If you’re laughing, He’ll laugh with you. He just wants to be in every part of your life.