For years, I’ve dealt with a strained Achilles tendon. It’s a sneaky little sucker, the pain tending to come and go. When it was just a little discomfort while running, I pretty much ignored it. When it progressed to requiring an old lady shuffle when I got out of bed in the morning, it wasn’t only a sore Achilles, but a bruised ego as well. Ugh. Part of me believed that this was my new reality: accept what I could no longer ignore, and shuffle on. Literally.

 Maybe it’s a stretch here, but I’m going to parallel this physical ailment with the emotional crap we all go through from time to time: grief, loss, sadness, rejection. You know, the hard stuff. The painful stuff. Like an injury, no one wants to deal with it. We just want it to go away.

At least, I know that I do. I want to ignore, avoid, and numb. Some choose devices or substances like drugs or alcohol to escape and attempt to gain at least a snippet of reprieve. And heaven knows I’ve succumbed to other “numbing” behaviors that may not be as apparent to the outside world. These behaviors have the same outcome of delaying, and sometimes preventing, health and healing. They often inflict more harm.

 I’ve wanted to sleep it all away. Just go to bed at 6 p.m. and try to stay unconscious for as long as possible. On the flip side, I’ve tried to busy myself to distraction or mental fatigue.  I’ve considered relationships I knew wouldn’t be healthy, maybe even downright selfish, for me to pursue. I’ve worked out to the point of physical exhaustion to both focus on the physical versus mental discomfort and to shut down my mind. I just want to be numb. Make the pain go away. Avoid. 

What are your go-tos for ignoring and numbing? Come on, think about it. We all have something. And, eh-hem, maybe you’re doing some avoiding by not pausing a moment to think about this? Trust me, I’m not judging, but I am wondering. 

But is avoiding and numbing out really so bad? Glad you asked. 

Famed research professor, lecturer, and author Brené Brown describes it pretty darn well when she talks about numbing behavior. In her words, “We cannot selectively numb emotion. If we numb the dark, we numb the light. If we take the edge off pain and discomfort, we are, by default, taking the edge off joy, love, belonging, and the other emotions that give meaning to our lives.”  In other words, numbing and avoiding prevents us from being the whole human our Creator intended for us to be.

 In addition to missing out on this fullness of life, hurt people hurt people. Pain not dealt with results in inflicting more pain on others, often unintentionally. Open wounds prevent the truth from being seen, healthy decisions from being made, and love from being shared.  Numbing and avoiding our pain closes us off at best and causes us to lash out at worst. 

And no, time doesn’t heal all wounds. In fact, if pain is ignored, avoided, or numbed, it can get worse. Like my strained Achilles, what starts out as discomfort eventually steals future joy and life experiences.  

Don’t believe me yet? Thankfully, God’s never changing and living word provides us with many real-life examples. Just look at the famed King David. In 2 Samuel, we read how he ignored dysfunction and pain. He avoided issues that tore not only him, but eventually his family, apart. 2 Samuel 13 records the story of how David’s denial and refusal to deal with Amnon’s rape and incest led to Absalom committing murder.  Uh, yeah, this is a bit bleaker, heavier, and results in more dire consequences when compared to a strained Achilles… but point made? 

So, if we aren’t to avoid or numb, what do we do? Simply put, we do the opposite: We face it.  In other words, we need to embrace the suck. But what does this look like? How do we embrace the suck without getting stuck in our hard feelings? 

Let’s look again at our boy King David. Like all humans, while he flopped sometimes; he got it right in others. And this dude learned to embrace the suck! Flip through the Psalms, and you’ll find his groanings, his pain, his questions, his grief, and his disappointments: 

“How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?” (Psalm 13:3). 

“My God, my God!  Why have You forsaken me?  Why do You remain so distant?  Why do you ignore my cries for help?” (Psalm 22:1). 

“I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear” (Psalm 143:4).

David’s pain was real, justified, and terrifying. But he didn’t avoid it. He didn’t try to numb it. He faced it. He spoke it. He embraced the suck. 

But David doesn’t end with the sucky embrace.

“But I trust in Your unfailing love. I will rejoice because You have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because He has been so good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).

“Yet You are holy. The praises of Israel surround Your throne” (Psalm 22:3).

“I remember the days of old. I ponder all Your great works. I think about what You have done” (Psalm 143:5).

You see, David also acknowledged and trusted in the One who was with him in it, through it, and would bring him out of it. David remembered God’s goodness, and He praised Him for who He was. He didn’t stay stuck in the suck.

Something I’ve learned that’s helped me face my hurts has been to ask myself these 3 questions. And, yes, that’s meant traveling back in time to some emotional injuries I previously ignored:

  1. What does this current or past situation cause me to believe about myself?
  2. What does this current or past situation cause me to believe about others?
  3. What does this current or past situation cause me to believe about God?

This is when a LOT of prayer comes in. Sometimes it’s lamenting like David and naming the hard things before God. Sometimes it’s writing it out, also like David.  Either way, it’s crying out to God and feeling all those negative and nasty feels. But then, also remembering who our God really is: We have a Heavenly Father who knows and understands EVERYTHING. When we surrender and trust Him, He helps us uncover the lies and gives us a Spirit perspective. But this takes time, effort, and seeking… which is definitely not possible when numbing, ignoring, or avoiding.

 With my Achilles, it wasn’t until I could no longer run even a few steps without pain that I finally started seeking help. The activity I loved so much was no longer possible. I simply couldn’t ignore it anymore. I’d wasted enough time. Instead of delaying, I needed to face my pain and put in the work to heal so I could run again.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my most painful moments in life to dictate my beliefs and future actions.

So, yeah, I’m still going through and dealing with some of that hard emotional crap right now that goes beyond the physical setback of a strained Achilles. And I’m trying really hard not to numb it. I’m going to face it. I’m going to let myself sink in it, that sadness and that sorrow, just for a little bit.  I’m not going to ignore it or avoid it but feel it and feel it fully. And I’m going to pray and seek Truth in it. 

I will remember, acknowledge, and praise my powerful, good God.  I will embrace the suck while not staying stuck. In the process, I know I’m going to learn. I’m going to grow. I’m not totally sure how, but that’s where my faith in the Great Healer and Comforter steps in.

As he reminds his people through the prophet, Jeremiah, “’ I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17). Even if healing doesn’t happen in the way I want or expect, I can trust him to be present with me, even in the suck.

“‘In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

So, let me challenge you in this as well. Let’s have the courage to face this stuff and deal with the pain now. Embrace the suck.  Let’s not allow months or years to pass us by. Let’s not shuffle through life when we can be running.