Pain And The Power Of A Hug

On Friday, a client called me crying. It wasn’t the first time a client has called me in tears, of course, but this time I really wasn’t expecting it. She had been doing so well just a few days prior.

Fortunately, I was able to drop what I was doing and head her way. When I got there, she was standing at the door, waiting for me, tears pooling in her red-rimmed eyes.

And seeing her there, just waiting for my car, no hope in the world beyond my arrival, the compassion in me grew to something mammoth-sized. I didn’t have a plan for her problem, I didn’t have a solution, all I had to offer was my presence. I got out of my car, and I walked over to her, and I hugged her.

We aren’t supposed to hug our clients, but in that moment, her title as Fellow Human Being loomed much larger than her title of Client. Hugging my client in that moment felt like one of the most important things I’ve done for anyone thus far in my career.

I wrapped my arms around her and I rubbed her shoulder, and we stood like that in the doorway for a long time.

I think we like to believe there’s a solution for everything. An answer to every problem. And usually there are things we can do to improve our situation, steps we can take or changes we can make or people we can ask for help, but not always. And often, those things cannot be implemented immediately. Often, at least for the moment, we have no other option but to sit and feel our pain.

After all, how many times when I’m crying is God’s response just to sit down beside me and hold me? Yes, He is always acting in my best interest, but my tears don’t often illicit immediate change. Often, He just lets me cry.

There must be a reason for that. My own tears usually feel annoyingly unproductive and pointless to me. But God must know something I don’t about allowing one’s self to cry.

He sees every tear that falls.

Our earthly parents delight in our existence- our long toes or crooked smile or the random freckle on our earlobe, it all matters to them. They keep baby teeth and locks of hair from our first haircuts. And how much more does the Father love us?! After all, He is our Creator! It was He who chose to give us that freckle; it was He who custom-designed our smile. Everything from our long toes to the hair growing from our heads matters to Him, and our tears are no exception.

The beauty of knowing that I matter to God? It’s overwhelming. Even if that’s all I have, I am blessed.

He loves me, my heart matters to Him, He sees every tear that falls- my pain, our pain, isn’t for naught. If He’s allowing it, and He is Love, then there’s a reason.

If I didn’t have my faith, however, which is where a lot of my clients are, what would I have? I cannot imagine how hard life would be if I didn’t know Jesus.

Even with my faith, I don’t know what we’re supposed to do in those moments when the world flips off its light and everything fades to black, and all you’re left with is sorrow and anger and your heartbeat loud and echo-y in your ears.

And when the world does go black, and all we’re left with is our own heartbeat and tears? The worse part about that, to me, is being unseen. We can see no positive future for ourselves, no hope… and no one can see us. I think that, faster than anything else, can suck the air out of a room.

And yet, God uses that too. “Breathe,” He whispers. And so you do. You inhale and exhale and just take it one breath at a time, and you realize that even when you’re alone and completely incapable of seeing what next steps to take in your life, and you don’t even know how you’ll ever gather the willpower to get yourself up off the ground, you’re not really alone. And you realize that, if you were never alone with your suffering, you might not appreciate the Lord in quite the same way. When you have nothing, you still have Him. And that’s a lot.

Sometimes the only thing to do is cry. Sit and feel our pain and wait and cry. And pray. Even if the prayer is only “Abba” repeated over and over again.

The perspective of a night or a day or a week or a month in a black-as-night world? I think it has made me a better therapist. Especially knowing that, as hard as those times were for me, it’s infinitely harder for my clients who don’t know the Lord. Truly, they have nothing.

As I drove away from my client’s house on Friday, my own eyes burned with tears, but not tears of sorrow, tears of gratitude. How fortunate I am to be able to step in to so many lives when things have gone dark. And how lucky I am to know God, to have Him model for me the best way to love the precious people He brings into my life.

Sometimes it’s just us and our tears. But if we’re lucky, sometimes someone, or Someone, will sit down next to us in the dark and wrap us in their arms.


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