The Psalms repeatedly record the pain of hurting people, as men describe relentless grief, intense sorrow, crushing pain, lack of strength, ceaseless tears, lost appetite, and deep wounds. These men knew what it was like to have breaking hearts in seemingly hopeless situations.
"I am weary with my sighing ... My eye has wasted away with grief" (6:6-7)."Having sorrow in my heart all the day" (13:2).
"I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart" (38:8).
"Evils beyond number have surrounded me ... and my heart has failed me" (40:12).
"My tears have been my food day and night" (42:2).
"My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away, indeed, I forget to eat my bread" (102:4).
"For I am afflicted and needy, and my heart is wounded within me" (109:22).
Man, in his natural state, displays various responses to such situations.
Anger and bitterness. Man may not even identify an object of his anger, lashing out in all directions. His eyes constantly shoot daggers, and his words overflow with attacks and assertions of unfairness. While family, friends, or other associates may suffer from these outbursts, God is the ultimate target. The angry person is upset that God did this to him.
Rebellion and hardness. When life is out of control, man tries to regain control by choosing to reject boundaries and restrictions. He may engage in uncharacteristic and unwise activities. This can be as simple as ignoring diet or need for sleep and as serious as reckless driving or substance abuse. When directed toward God, this attitude carries the danger of desertion. The rebellious person wants to turn his back on God.
Self-pity and depression. Someone who suffers can think he is the only person to go through such intensity or combination of challenges. The current crisis seems only added to a lifetime of similar events. It is easy for the person to lose himself in negative thoughts and feelings. The depressed person often doubts God's love for him.
Seclusion and isolation. The hurting person often believes that no one understands his pain. Whether actual or perceived, people's responses seem at times inappropriate or hurtful. Even worse, sometimes others offer no compassion or acknowledgment of the pain. It can be tempting to withdraw from these potential hurts as well as from the uncomfortable vulnerability that easily arises in public. The isolated person sometimes withdraws even from God.
Repression and denial. Sometimes the pain is too hard to process. Some people prefer to avoid emotion or sensitivity. They push down the pain, pretending it didn't happen and doesn't affect them. With no acknowledgement of the pain, the process of healing is hindered. Those who repress the pain are at risk of failing to grow as God intends.
Each negative response has a positive counterpart that God desires to see.
Acceptance and trust. God wants His child to trust Him, accepting everything that comes from His hand and that is approved by His will. Someone may not understand the reasons for the events, but he can know that God is superintending it all. The accepting person acknowledges that no matter how much something hurts, he will follow God anyway, even if more pain comes. "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26).
Humility and submission. God wants His child to give up his own control and yield to Him. Instead of the chaos and conflict that come from fighting God, man can have the peace and grace that come from surrendering to God. The humble person submits to God, embracing His choices, just as Jesus surrendered His will to the Father's. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time" (I Peter 5:6).
Thankfulness and rejoicing. God wants His child to give thanks in all things (I Thessalonians 5:18) and to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4). Such thankfulness and rejoicing are based on what the believer knows about God and His purposes. The Christian can gratefully rejoice in the hope of heaven and in knowing that God is doing a good work in him. Such a response requires someone to purposefully control his thoughts. "I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart" (Psalm 77:6).
Communication and growth. A believer's most beneficial communication is with God. God invites His child to pour out his heart to Him (Psalm 61:8). The Bible is filled with God's messages of truth, hope, and love. Such communication can bring spiritual growth, as a hurting Christian expresses to God his tenderness in wanting to grow and learn, and as he seeks the Bible for the guidance he needs. "Search me, O God, and know my heart ... Lead me in the everlasting way" (Psalm 139:23-24).
Healing and ministry. Healing is always God's desire and part of His plan in the process of hurt (Job 5:18). When God heals, He mends so thoroughly that the hurting person finds himself capable of helping others who are hurting (II Corinthians 1:4). "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3).
In my experience, the negative responses are categorically expressed by anger, while the positive responses often result in tears. Each positive response requires a tender heart, which can contribute additional emotion to someone who is already vulnerable. Tears are not comfortable, especially in public settings, but a humble, hurting heart is far better than an angry, self-protecting heart. There is no shame in tears that reflect a tender heart.
"Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD" (Psalm 27:14).