When Pain is Your Teacher


“I am deeply convinced that each human being suffers in a way no other human being suffers. No doubt, we can make comparisons; we can talk about more or less suffering, but, in the final analysis, your pain and my pain are so deeply personal that comparing them can bring scarcely any consolation or comfort. In fact, I am more grateful for a person who can acknowledge that I am very alone in my pain than for someone who tries to tell me that there are many others who have a similar or worse pain.” - Henri Nouwen

This past year I let go of a dating relationship that meant the world to me. Letting go of it caused me so much pain and loss that some days I’m still surprised I was able to do it. I learned a few things about a heart in pain during all of this that I thought I would share. Pain is never wasted, right? But pain definitely isolates, so my hope is that though our heartbreaks might be different, God will use some of what I learned to speak healing directly to you and to remind you that you are not alone. I also hope that you will share with me what has helped you. God does things like that with our pain, no matter how different it seems on the outside. 

I don’t know where I would be without the following:

God’s Voice & The Church

No matter how many times I ignore or push back God’s voice in my life, God is faithful to speak. Because God has shown me over and over through the years that following Him is by far the best thing I can do, looking back reminded me that I could (and should) move forward in His calling. Even when I didn’t feel like I could. 

No matter how feeble my steps were and how opposite my heart was from my faith, I was able to trust God just enough to follow Him instead of my heart. Which at times seemed so cruel and full of way more pain than I wanted. The church, during these times, was crucial. Other believers around me provided a haven of conviction, encouragement, and truth. They pointed me to Jesus even when I felt like I didn’t have an ounce of belief left in me. When the church sang “Jesus is enough for me” and prayed prayers of thankfulness for God not giving them the things they wanted, it gave me space to wrestle honestly with where I was in my faith and where I wanted to be.

Family & Friends 

My family and friends see the best and worst in me, and they have fought for me in the biggest ways. There were friends during all of this who took the time and really asked how I was doing, texted and used Marco Polo (a video messaging app) to let me know they were thinking about and praying for me. They showered me with grace, patience, and laughter during a whole lot of sadness. They saw through my smiles and energy and all the things that were going well in my life. Sometimes it can be hard to see pain because it isn’t the absence of good things in our lives, but rather the acute and focused realization of what is broken. You have to come a little closer to see that if you’re not the one experiencing it. 

I am so grateful for the wise counsel and comfort God brought me through my friends and family. There were, however, a couple of relationships that struggled during this season for a myriad of reasons, teaching me the value of forgiveness and making things right in my key relationships. Those relationships are stronger because they pursued and loved me through the messiness that relationships get in sometimes. Pain can cause a lot of misunderstandings and create wedges between people that we don’t always handle well, but I encourage you to go there and ask the questions that will heal: “Something is off and I can tell you’re not really talking to me like you used to. I love you, can you tell me what’s happened?” That is a powerful sentence and question when asked in humility and a desire for connection.

Words, Music, and Bike Rides 

I’m not sure if there’s anything words, music, and bike rides can’t help. Writing has always been an outlet for me and I wrote A LOT. I wrote words that I couldn’t yet speak out loud, and it helped. The words I read from Isaiah 55, books like Remember God by Annie F. Downs and Katie Bowler’s Everything Happens For A Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved), and certain pieces of poetry and prayers (in particular, the Prayer of Examen) were especially helpful. Words I heard through Lysa Terkeurst, Jedd Medefind, and Jackie Hill-Perry podcasts were also wonderful. 

Music is incredible and sometimes you need really sad songs as much as you need hopeful ones. If you’re curious, the ones that were on repeat for me: “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Kina Grannis, “Quiet Light” by The National, and “Everything” by Lauren Daigle. 

And bike rides? They cleared my mind and gave me a lot of joy (even when I fell down in the middle of Automobile Alley because of those blasted trolley tracks).

No matter where you are in life or how deeply you are experiencing pain, I hope you know that God loves you and is with you and that you are resilient. And that your friends, family, and church are fighting for you. And that there are gifts of words, music, and bike rides (or other things that fit you better and are just as lovely) that help you heal and make you feel a little less lonely. 

Go not forth to call Dame Sorrow From the dim fields of Tomorrow; Let her roam there all unheeded, She will come when she is needed; For when she draws nigh thy door, She will find God there before.

To Anyone, by George McDonald

P.S. While I didn’t seek professional counseling during this season, I wish I would have! It would have been so helpful during all of this. Consider this your encouragement to book that counseling appointment if you’ve been thinking about it!

And don’t waste your pain; let me know in the comments what helped bring healing when your heart was hurt.


Meet the Author!

Makenzie graduated from Wheaton College where she majored in Christian Ministry, Urban Studies, and Photography and somehow managed to apply all of her degrees to work in the real world! She has a passion for community development after years working in urban ministry in Chicago, non-profits in Austin, and part-time roles at CRBC the past 4&1/2 years. She loves being able to equip and serve the church and recently stepped into the full-time role as Minister of Missions at CRBC which includes both local and global partnerships. Despite being the missions minister, she is quite the homebody. She is an avid Harry Potter fan, loves Oklahoma City, and loves to be with her friends, family, and ADORABLE weenie dog, May.