I taught a class on pain this weekend. College students have some of the toughest questions about God so we dove in. We talked about the juxtaposition of a Holy God coexisting with an evil world. We talked about how He does not cause every hard thing to happen in our lives but that some hard things are from Him, and are just beyond our understanding. Just beyond our intellectual reach. I taught this class because I’ve lived it. I can remember the fear I felt when I asked God the hardest question of my life: How can you be so good and this be so hard? I can still remember the surprise I felt when He responded, not with condemnation but with love. To have lived all that was one thing, to teach it is another thing entirely. My small group taught me to walk in vulnerability and to live it out when no one is asking for it- to have the most honest conversation imaginable and create a space for people to process hard things. A space that I needed so desperately four years ago and couldn’t find.

I love the space we’re creating in these moments and now I can feel a new truth. Had I not experienced pain myself, this space to process pain with others could never have been created. I wonder, have I arrived at a new territory of grief where I am experiencing and gaining more through the pain than what I lost because of it? Where is the line and what happens when we cross it, if ever? I love these people and this ministry and these conversations, but do I love them enough to say I would choose this growth and these moments no matter the cost? The cost has been great. If I had the choice now, knowing what I know, knowing where it would take me and others, would I still choose it? Then the students sitting in the conversation responded with their pain, brokenness, and honest, tough questions. I know God is going to heal their pain through their vulnerability because He’s done the same for me. He is good even when we cannot see it. Healing is inevitable even when it feels impossible. And to the question still on my mind of whether or not I would do it all again—the answer becomes obvious: yes. Because the hard things are the beautiful things too.


-Written by Neely Lawson, alumna of Austin Peay State University

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