I was out of town at a service ministering a little while ago.
As I stood at the book table with products that we’d brought along with us, an older gentleman came up to me smiling.
He was carrying something tucked under his arm, and as I turned around to greet him, I realized that it was the book that I’d written, The 365 Prayer Project.
He opened up the book, and as he fanned the pages, I immediately noticed that each page were filled with journal entries, and highlighted words throughout.
I felt my heart begin to melt with joy.
I was honestly very surprised.
As a creative (author), whenever you produce anything to be consumed by society, you typically have a target audience.
Your target audience usually consists of people that are “like you” in some way.
Mothers tend to identify with other mothers, women with other women, Christians with other Christians.
You can become pigeon-holed into a specific category of people that are interested in what you have to say.
It becomes a tricky thing for women in ministry.
Most men do not buy our books or readily listen to our sermons.
Some suffer from misogyny, while others believe that everything that we have to say is for other women. They can’t quite wrap their interest around consuming anything feminine.
But when I wrote The 365 Prayer Project, I prayed that men would buy it.
I prayed that men would not only see the importance of having a thriving relationship with God, but also DESIRING it with the passion necessary to pursue it.
So imagine my delight, when a man old enough to be my grandfather, came up to me with this journal FILLED with entries.
As we stood there speaking, he conversed with me about his prayer journey.
He told me that he was still at a point where he was trying to discern whether or not he heard from God.
As he stood there talking to me his tone was slightly frustrated/discouraged.
He had an idea of how he’d like to have God speak to him, or at least the ability to know that he was.
As we talked through identifying ways that God speaks to him, he made a statement:
“I guess the problem is that I’ve actually had a really good life. I have not really had much suffering.”
Out of everything said in our conversation, THIS was the one thing that stuck with me.
It stuck with me for days.
It was a statement that I needed to think over and analyze how I truly felt about it.
It was a very weighty statement.
And I needed to see just how valid it was.
Suffering involves trauma at some level.
And the idea that suffering is needed to connect with God creates the expectation that we need trauma to form a bond with Him.
Trauma Bonding is a term used to describe a connection between abusive people and the people that they abuse.
It was founded by Patrick Carnes PhD.
He came up with the phrase to describe emotional attachments that occur in the presence of danger, shame, or exploitation.
A sign of its presence is when the abused person begins to develop sympathy or emotional feelings for the abuser.
This term also was used to describe a case where kidnappers held victims hostage, and did not allow them to escape or leave. While hostage, they gave them gifts and did nice things for them, causing the victims to bond to their captors in a very dysfunctional way.
Tho the origin of this terms holds negative meaning, it is a term that applies in other ways, not all negatively.
Trauma bonds between people are common.
Two extremely broken individuals attract to one another in relationship because of a common flaw within their character or personality.
Dysfunction usually finds dysfunction, as does strength to strength.
The law of attraction is really about commonality.
We attract what we are, want, or possess.
It can be the worse relationship for both people, but it feels like home because of the common trauma.
Then there are people who attract to one another because of healing from trauma.
Both have overcome and found common ground as an overcomer.
But in both cases, trauma is the basis for the bond.
It is much better to bond over healed trauma, than it is trauma that still exists that we are either comfortable with, ignoring, or totally unaware of.
Thinking of God in the context of trauma and suffering, along with the statement that was made denoting an inability to hear because of a lack of suffering, I had to think of my own life.
Is suffering REALLY necessary to be able to hear God?
Is it a requirement? Is a lack of suffering an obstacle to developing a fine tuned ear?
The short answer is NO.
God would never make pain the requirement to hear Him.
Suffering however serves an entirely different purpose in our walk with God.
As I leaned into his statement, there was more that surfaced in my thinking. Here I am in my very early 40’s, and I have had my fair share of suffering in this short time.
Some suffering was the result of my choices, others the result of LIFE.
He’s lived almost twice the life that I have, and the fact that he is unable to identify areas of loss or pain is ASTOUNDING.
I don’t know his life story enough to know the validity of this statement.
But suffering is not something that anyone can escape.
It is a part of living.
Perhaps denial about this is an issue within itself is something that would cause one to struggle to hear, comprehend, or even pray with depth for that matter.
If we have suffered, and do not know it, there is likely so much more that we’ve missed, our healing being the most serious of them all!
Suffering in this life is inescapable.
If you set out to live with even the lowest level of fulfillment and purpose, it will still find you.
And God forbid you dare to reach for greatness, it is most certainly inevitable.
It is supposed to find you.
It HAS to.
Romans 5:3-5 speaks of what suffering produces in us. It is tied into the most intricate parts of our spiritual development.
This is just the way things are.
This is why we have been given such great promises from God.
At a minimum, He promised to always be with us.
He promised to be a very present help in the time of trouble. (Psalm 91:15)
He literally promised that he would be there as a remedy for trouble.
Wrapped right into that promise of His presence, is the forecast of trouble.
Trouble carries its own form of suffering.
We are also told that all who will live Godly WILL suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
In many cases, choosing to do what’s right in the face of the convenience of choosing wrong carries discomfort.
And that discomfort can often feel like suffering.
But as I continued thinking, I realized something.
Tho suffering is not needed to hear from God, something happens in the life of a person who chooses to bond with God through their trauma.
I have had many moments with God that have solidified our bond.
But the ones that cemented my love for Him were the one’s where I was rescued.
To be picked up, comforted, kept, loved, restored, and held when in trouble is a different type of presence.
If there is ever any doubt of God’s existence, when he shows up this way, you PERCEIVE a love that must be experienced, and cannot simply be explained.
When we are saved from suffering, we are saved from a life where our senses are dull to his presence.
And when your senses are in tune with His presence, our spiritual ears are opened.
I don’t believe that God ever intended for suffering to be an introduction to His reality.
But it is certainly an opportunity for Him to show up as an answer to a void or need that only He can fill.
However, I have often found that many people fall into the trap of actually NEEDING trauma to feel close to God.
We rely on Him only when there are problems that we need for Him to fix.
We feel closer to Him when He’s fixing something for us, or we’re waiting for Him to.
We love the idea of running to Him in trouble.
We love to be comforted this way.
It really does become a THING for a lot of people.
And when it is a "thing" for us, we rarely learn to live outside of this.
When I was 8 years old, I remember having a very bad fever.
We drove home from church, and I was half asleep on the backseat all the way home.
I could hear my parents talking with concern.
When we pulled into the driveway, my Dad hopped out the car, opened the back door, and picked me up.
He took me into the house, gave me a lukewarm bath to lower my fever, and put me in PJ’s and straight to bed.
I remember the feeling of feeling very ill, and the comfort that I experienced by simply being picked up and taken into he house instead of having to walk.
I felt cared for. I felt warmth. I felt my Father's strength. I felt safe.
Do you know that over the next 6 months, every time we came home and pulled into the backyard, I’d lay down and fake sleep?
I wanted my Dad to carry me into the house again.
I wanted to relive that feeling over and over again.
Sure, He carried me into the house a few more times.
But the feeling was not the same.
There was something about the feeling of being carried while being sick and too weak to walk that was different and special.
THAT was the feeling that I wanted again.
Sure, that's sweet for an 8 year old.
But imagine being 16, or 40 years old, and STILL looking to bond with my father that way.
What does that say about the development of our relationship.
What does it say about my ability to connect with my Father in other ways that are possible?
This is how many believers become with God.
We want to be sick to experience being carried.
We want the feeling of acceptance that comes with being cared for.
The sad thing about this addiction is that it robs us of the knowledge that everything that we need in God is readily available to us in sickness and in health, in good times or bad, and no matter the occasion.
It blinds us to all of the other ways that God would like to reveal himself to us.
There is a way to experience God in peace and happiness that is as unique and fulfilling as experiencing Him in trouble.
He is a very layered God.
He is multi-faceted.
We will spend the rest of our lives searching out His beauty.
Sure, what he gives and how he shows up may vary.
But He will always fit the occasion.
Once upon a time, this was my story.
I only knew how to connect to God through pain.
My prayer life was one, long, battle story.
God spoke to my heart and told me that I didn't need trouble to get His attention.
He impressed in my spirit His desire for me to mature beyond this place.
It was a life changing experience.
There is more than one way to bond to God.
There is a much better way for Him to speak to us and hold our attention.
NONE of these ways are circumstances based.
They are personality and nature based.
And they rest in who He is far more than who we are.
God will talk to you in suffering.
He will bond with you in your trauma.
But it is only to lead you to a reality of healing that creates a bond based on faith, and the truth of who He is.
Our bond with God is a bond of love and fellowship.
Every interaction with Him must flow from this foundation.