You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56:8 NLT
Sometimes the world doesn’t see your pain.
Sometimes you grieve and suffer in silence. Long after the diagnosis, the divorce, the funeral, or the first waves of depression, you find yourself still hurting and hopeless. You wonder why nobody has noticed that you’re still not healed, you’re still not happy, you’re still not okay.
My husband, Chris, often says, “Grief lasts longer than a casserole.”
Your pain is likely different from mine. You may be grieving the loss of a parent or a marriage or a job or a dream. You may be fighting depression or anxiety, loneliness or isolation, or the overwhelming pace and inevitable wear of a too-busy life. Your days may be spent in the monotony of diaper changes and soccer practices, or you may spend every waking moment caring for aging parents or children with special needs. Perhaps your pain comes from what is missing—a relationship, a child, meaningful work, financial provision. Pain takes on different characteristics; sometimes it’s numbing, and sometimes it’s crushing and searing. No matter what is hurting you or how, you aren’t alone.
Our family recently weathered a season of swift and constant change. Though the radical changes are now over, we are still navigating grief, fear, and uncertainty. We consider this our season in the wilderness. I tried to tell myself that this wilderness season won’t last forever, but depression washed over me in waves anyway. Watching my daughter struggle has been heart-wrenching, and for a long time, I was a mess. Grieving so many things while facing a shrinking budget and growing bills left me in a storm of deep, isolating sorrow. Most days my prayers were reduced to simply uttering, “Jesus…Jesus,” over and over. But that was enough.
One day, I followed Chris home from a church event we’d driven to separately. As we sat at a stop sign facing a beautiful sunset, he turned around and waved. And just like that, at least in that moment, I felt like we were going to be okay. Despite the darkness—or maybe because of it—I’ve seen so many rainbows and reminders of God’s promises, and that’s what keeps me going. When it feels like this wilderness journey we’re on will never end, when the twists and turns won’t stop coming, it’s hard not to feel hopeless and alone.
Suffering has a way of leading to isolation, which in turn feeds our fear and anxiety and tricks us into thinking we have to keep it all to ourselves. But you’re not alone. The Lord hasn’t abandoned you; he sees your pain. Even when friends stop checking in and family gets tired of listening, even when you feel like you’re a burden, you’re not alone in your pain. God is still with you.
When you feel like you’ve been abandoned, even by the Lord, take heart. Resist the urge to buy into the lie or wallow in the guilt of doubting God. He can handle it. You’re allowed your doubt. But don’t forget to look around for the rainbows, for the sunsets, for the smiling faces throwing you waves at a stop sign. Look for the small reminders that God has not left you and that he never will. That’s what I’m doing, even on the darkest days, and that’s my prayer for you.
Lindsey Wheeler is the founder and curator of Bottle of Tears, an online gift retailer dedicated to sending small tokens of hope and encouragement to the hurting, Lindsey lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with her husband, Chris, and adopted daughter, Eliana.