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The Best Way to Show Up for the Disappointed and Hurting

December 31, 2019

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Painting was the last thing I expected to be doing on my birthday. And yet there I was, holding a dripping, shaking paintbrush beside my mom and my sisters.

Year 48 was supposed to be a year filled with adventure and freedom. The last of my five kids was going to college, and Art and I were heading into our empty-nest years. I thought this new season would be as fun and predictable as one of those beautiful adult coloring books. Twenty-five years of marriage had helped life take shape, so all we had to do now was just add color.

But nothing looked like I thought it would on this 48th birthday. Instead of planning for the future with my husband, I was trying to figure out how we’d ever glue the shattered pieces of our marriage back together again. Instead of dreaming, I felt like I was stuck in a nightmare. One where I opened the coloring book, and someone had erased all the beautifully drawn lines.

There was nothing but white pages. Empty spaces. Endless possibilities of fear and failure.

Metaphorically speaking, my life was now a blank canvas.

And so, my mother suggested — no, actually she demanded — we get some blank canvases and paint on my birthday.

I painted a boat. They all painted angels. And while my mom was right — it was therapeutic in many ways — it was also a terrifyingly vulnerable experience.

The enemy of my soul didn’t want me painting that day. To create meant I would look a little bit like my Creator. To overcome the terrifying angst of the blank canvas meant I would forever have more compassion on other artists. You better believe as I placed the first blue and gray strokes onto the white emptiness before me, “not good enough” was pulsing through my head in almost deafening tones.

Perfection mocked my boat. The bow was too high, the details too elementary, the reflection on the water too abrupt, and the back of the boat too off-center. Disappointment demanded I hyper-focus on what didn’t look quite right.

I forced myself to send a picture of my boat to at least 20 friends. With each text I sent, I slowly made peace with my painting’s imperfections. Not for validation but rather confirmation that I could see the imperfections in my painting but not deem it worthless. I could see the imperfections in me and not deem myself worthless. It was an act of self-compassion.

We must get to this place of self-compassion if we ever hope to have true, deep compassion for others. Disappointment begs us to be secretly disgusted with everything and everyone who has gaps, everything and everyone who also wrestles with the “not good enough” script. But what if, instead of being so epically disappointed with everyone, we saw in them the need for compassion?

I like that word compassion. Compassion is being aware that all of us fear the imperfections deeply carved into our naked selves. We all cover up. And then we all get stripped bare when the wins become losses.

And who do we want standing near us in those moments, dripping with disappointment and saturated with sorrow? I can assure you it isn’t people who don’t know the whole story, draped in gold-plated pride with mouths eager to spill out commentary, “Here’s what you did wrong. I would never have allowed myself to get in this position. If only you would have …”

Nope. It’s those clothed with garments of understanding. They have personally experienced how excruciatingly painful it can sometimes be to simply be human. They keep in mind Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

We are to put on each of these every day, like a painter puts on color she knows will connect her creation with others. God wants us, His creation, to connect with others and bring them light and life with the brush strokes of compassion.

And the only way to gain more of this compassion is to pick up a paintbrush and sit in the seat of our own suffering. We find life-giving purpose and meaning when we allow God to take our painful experiences and comfort others.

Have you walked through an unexpected season of darkness and suffering? Those seasons aren’t for nothing, sweet friend.

Pick up the paintbrush. Put some paint on the emptiness. Color-correct your perspective. Forget the cravings for comfort zones. Trade your comfort for compassion. Get wet with paint. Put the brush to the canvas. Declare yourself a painter. And when someone steals all the lines from your coloring book, determine to color the world anyhow with the same generous compassion God offers every day.

You are walking the way of the artist. You are simply showing up with compassion. And I love you for that. I love whatever is about to come to life on your canvas to the glory of our Almighty Creator. God. The Redeemer of dust. The Redeemer of us.

Father God, no matter how much this life leaves me hurting, I always want to come out on the other side of pain loving. Help me be a woman of great compassion. A woman who wears her scars of suffering well — willingly sharing my survival story so others can know and believe survival is possible for them, too. And help me remember that no time showing up and bringing compassion to another human is ever a waste of time. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

As I look back over the last several years of my life, I can honestly say there are seasons I couldn’t have survived without the unconditional love and the teaching of biblical truth by the precious souls that work at Proverbs 31 Ministries.

As we draw to the close of 2019, would you consider a gift to this crucial ministry? Some generous donors have made it possible that every dollar you give through today, 12/31, will be doubled up to $100,000. No matter what you give, the impact of your donation will be big to us. To me. To the women who need the lifeline of truth and hope we hold out to women and families every day.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m so honored to partner with you in this life changing ministry. I am one of the lives you’ve helped change with your gifts to Proverbs 31 Ministries.

You can give HERE.

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  1. Helen Smith

    Thank you for this. I am finishing up a year marked by deep, deep heartache. I struggle to find my way…
    My beloved husband left me in early 2011 after 31 years together, he divorced me in early 2015, my sister closest to me passed away from cancer in 2016, my much loved dad in 2017, a bare 9 months after my sister – this year – the Lord gives and the Lord takes away – my middle son who was just four days off celebrating his 26th birthday, died in his sleep – praise the Lord he did not suffer (he had been through heart surgery at 15 days and 19 years of age, as well as brain cancer at the age of 13, which involved surgery, chemo and radiation), he was in good health and serving a mission team from Northern Ireland, praise the Lord!! despite his inner struggles, he was close to the Lord at the time of his death.

    I find it so difficult to go forward – I still love my husband, I have two surviving children – one who lives near me and has the most adorable dog grandchildren, and my lovely daughter who lives thousands of miles from me in Ireland. I live in Brazil, a country I love and have adopted as my own.

    Pray for me

    • Constance

      I send you warm hugs and love! You are a warrior and God has given you his spirit of strength and a sound mind. You will come out on the otherwise filled with the power of God and the grace of bless others. I too have some adversities I am dealing with but j am learning to trust God. That is my word for this year. Trust. Love you and praying for you.

  2. Nico Smith

    I <3 being there for those around me.:( I can usually tell when someone may be hurting. Who can be hurting when I’m around? I mean, I know just what to say to make others feel better—needless of the situation. I often know the right thing to say to somebody who is hurting. Nothing makes me happier ☹ than to cheer somebody up whenever the opportunity ends up presenting itself.
    God can use me in any way possible. I know there will be an opportunity in the coming year; however, I do hope that I don’t encounter any obstacles to stand in my way. Ultimately, I would <3 to be a part of the choir at my church, and I hope that my dream of that will come true in the coming year. That would be the most incredible thing to start the year off with, if you ask me. Unfortunately, accessibility may make this a challenging obstacle because the choir room is in the lower level of our church, which unfortunately has stairs.

    • Gloria E Meunier

      Dear Nico Smith;
      I pray that the church building where your members meet would be renovated, perhaps with a ramp.
      Acts 17v28

  3. Gidget J.

    I am struggling with this right now! My son is 31 & just began starting to ride bulls in the summer of 2019. He has gotten hurt twice already in the few months he has been doing this. Kicked in the head the first time and had some short term memory loss, and could have broken his neck. The second time, just a few weeks ago he got stepped on and broke his shoulder blade and cracked some ribs. Could have been so much worse and that is what I am afraid of! Also he has a wife and 2 children that depend on him and he hasn’t been able to work and may need surgery. He still wants to ride and I’ve been so angry and disappointed! God has brought him through so much including drug addiction and I feel he is being so selfish! How do I turn all this anger & fear into what
    God wants from me? I feel if I don’t stick to my guns of not accepting this selfishness in his life that he will not see what he is doing. I just can’t approve of this. Help!

  4. Theresa Hofstetter

    I found this very encouraging. God has given me a very specific task to care for women he has put in my life in this season. I’m pretty good at that, but not as good at caring for myself.

    He has given me the word Fearless for this year. A couple of days ago I realized that at some point in my adult life I have become afraid to draw or paint or do anything creative that doesn’t have very defined parameters. I don’t have a clue where it came from, but your story is helpful and I will revisit it.

  5. Beth Middleton

    Lisa, Lisa,
    I wanted to thank you for the encouragement of your Bible Study, “It’s not Suppose To Be This Way.” My cousin sent me the link to do the online study which I did. We have had a lot of grief in the last 5 years with one parent passing a year, including an aunt and uncle which were considered like parents. My dad is left with Alzheimer’s . The Lord has been teaching me a lot about who He is during this time which is awesome.
    I had to tell you that God gave me the most profound promise verse this morning from your study , Deut 31:8 appeared for me to write down on page 76. My husband is leaving at 1pm today to go on his first mission trip and it’s to Uganda. He recently started a non profit ministry called The Word and Water Project. I was so overjoyed to see this verse . I had to tell you because it’s not by accident that the verse was there . It’s not by accident that I picked up your study this morning . I just wanted to let you know that your words matter and God is at work. This verse is right next to Deut 31:6 which is a major Promise verse to me with a story.
    I’m from NC but now live in Birmingham , Al. I see you live in NC so we must have some Carolina connection. I will have to say that I was unfamiliar with you and your work but I really enjoyed your study. You have a knowledge and passion for what you do and it’s obvious in your teaching.
    I hope you have a great New Year. Again, I just wanted to thank you.

    Beth C Middleton

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