Pain and the Peace of Christ

Daniel has had a difficult life. When he was a child he was removed from his parents’ house and placed in a group home, where he was molested by one or more of the employees. He aged out of the foster system and developed serious mental disorders, including chronic depression and paranoid schizophrenia. He receives a monthly government check for his mental disabilities and uses the small amount of money to live a quiet, simple life. He has no family to speak of, just his dog Roy Boy.

A few years ago, Daniel started a relationship with Jane, a woman who also relied on a monthly check to make ends meet. Her children had been removed from her custody and her parents refuse to provide her any assistance as long as she is romantically involved with Daniel. 

Recently, Jane ended things with Daniel, not because of family pressure, but because she started using hard drugs and blamed him for her addiction. 

I’ve often interacted with the couple and, honestly, they were good together.  They spoke kindly to each other and looked out for each other. Daniel especially took great pride in doing his best to take care of Jane. Now that it’s over, he’s heartbroken. 

In the time I’ve spent with the poor, I’ve seen several breakups like this. Usually, the man can’t stop talking about how much he loves the girl and can’t live without her. I once led a man to Christ after his breakup. He prayed the sinners prayer before crying out, “God I miss her so much. I can’t be homeless again!” Maybe he missed her house, bed, and air conditioning, too.

Daniel isn’t like most guys in this situation. He’s not hung up on Jane. 

Instead, he is drinking heavily and wondering why God won’t let him be happy. 

When Daniel told me about his breakup, he looked at me through tears and moaned, “Can I just have a hug? Please?”

For the next 30 minutes, Daniel shook violently and repeatedly expressed his one desire:

To be loved.

“I have no one. Just Roy Boy. Why does no one love me?”

Just imagine being 50 years old, discarded by your parents, abused by your caretakers, plagued by mental illness, abandoned by someone you love, and evicted from your apartment.

Daniel wept as he continued, “I love God, I do. But why is my life so bad? Why doesn’t anyone love me?”

As a minister, the temptation is to tell Daniel there are steps he can take to feel better.

Pray, go to church, sober up, join a small group, find a place to volunteer.

The problem, however, is that I know the truth. That in my life, in times when I’ve been actively practicing everything listed above — not to mention the blessings of marriage, fatherhood, close friends, and career – I still have sleepless nights where I weep at the reality of my loneliness and feelings of being unlovable. 

Religious activity is not the answer.

And I think Christians would do well to stop promoting it as such.

Lately, when I have the honor of ministering to the poor and afflicted, I repeat the words of Jesus: 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)

I don’t know why no one has loved Daniel well, or why he’s had to suffer an immense amount of emotional and mental trauma in his life. 

But I do know that it sucks, and it’s mostly not his fault. 

Most importantly, Jesus knows more about Daniel and his suffering than I could ever know. I believe Jesus embraces Daniel, feels his pain, and promises that one day things will be better. 

That gives me hope that Daniel’s pain (as well as my own) is not in vain. 

And even though it doesn’t make the pain go away, it provides, if only for a moment, a great amount of peace. 

According to scripture, that is what our Savior desires.

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