Invite God into Our Pain

Yael Eckstein  |  August 3, 2023

Woman crying at Western Wall.

LORD, you are the God who saves me;
   day and night I cry out to you.
— Psalm 88:1

Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are—not what God does. These devotions focus on different facets of prayer and what lessons we can learn about the power of our prayers.

There are some days when I feel overwhelmed by the troubles of life. I am weighed down by my own personal struggles, those of my children and family, the suffering of my neighbors, and horrible stories in the news.

But then, just as I am about to fall apart, I often stop and say to myself, “But you have so much to be grateful for! You have your health, family, and friends, enough money, a beautiful home, and the merit of living in the Holy Land. You have food on your table, a roof over your head, and everything you need. What do you have to cry about?”

While all of this is true and while it is important to remember our many blessings from God, when we do not allow ourselves to express the pain in our hearts, we hold ourselves back from an important experience.

To paraphrase a quote I once heard from a Holocaust survivor, “Pain is like a gas; no matter how concentrated it is, it spreads to fill the space completely.”

Invite God into Our Pain

This profound idea teaches us that there is no use comparing our pain with that of others or repressing our pain because we feel it is not justified. When we are in pain, we are in pain completely. That is when we need to invite God into our pain.

In Psalm 88, the psalmist cries out to God, bemoaning the fact that he is alone, in danger, and out of hope. However, unlike most other psalms that start out bleak and then turn around to end on a positive note, this one ends as depressingly as it began, concluding with “…darkness is my closest friend” (v.18).

This psalm gives us permission to simply be in a dark place every now and then. Repressing our feelings won’t make them go away. God doesn’t ask us to keep our painful emotions bottled up; He wants us to reach out to Him in troubling times. Instead of trying to flee from our own pain, we can invite God into our pain and to be there with us.

Your Turn:

Next time life gets you down, invite God into your pain and turn it into an opportunity to grow closer to Him.