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"The Lord is near." Philippians 4:5b (NIV)

Trapped like a firefly in a Mason jar. Stifled, I peered out, watching others' dreams and hopes and joys twinkle and fly by my stagnant ones. My own desires sat dusty in my valley of pain.

Little by little, my happy-go-lucky heart flickered. Sadness cupped his hand over what dim light was left as I acknowledged out loud the depths of my disappointment.

Extinguished. Exhausted. Expectant no longer.

"I'm so sorry your dreams are dashed," my friend offered. "Wish I had known sooner how painful this disappointment has been. Woulda been an honor to walk it out with you."

"Thanks. But a broken heart is silly. Especially in light of others' pain." Our friend's husband had just passed away; he endured months of heartbreaking illness. Now she endured the grief of his death. Who was I to be sad about a mere breakup? I would not add white noise to the blaring symphony of sorrow around me.

Silenced by self-doubt. Belittled by unworthiness.

I diminished my pain, fearing it insignificant compared to others seemingly more important pain. I belittled my pain and in the process, belittled God's care about my pain. Healing had been offered, yet I walked away from it, from the One who longed to tend my wounds.

Years of wisdom, scrolls of mercy, flashed in my friend's eyes.

She took my hand and we journeyed back. Back to a time when she lost two children. Someone told her to check her pain at the door. Keep it in perspective to others' pain.

She took my hand and we journeyed back. Back to a time when pain was acknowledged and sifted through, not simply tucked in a dark corner. She turned from the pain to the Lord who administered healing from the grief of empty arms and empty cribs.

She took my hand and we journeyed forward. "Don't belittle your grief. Your pain is genuine. This valley is real. You must acknowledge the Lord is near and accept His help to get out."

My friend granted permission to feel my ache and loss. Drastically different than her own, yet no less honest. Not till that moment did I realize I'd held my pain at a distance, shunned for perceived absurdity. Petty stuff my broken heart stood certain God didn't have time to worry about it.

Yet truth resonated in my friend's words. No one loves us like He can, like He will. No one offers healing like He does. And no one stands as near, willing to catch our tears. So precious, He saves each and every one.

Friend, is it perhaps time to acknowledge your pain? To become aware of the Lord's care and always-there presence?

The grace of God and of friends in the valley is needed. Counting stars during the long, dark night of our soul is more comforting with others beside us. The first ray of light often is glimpsed by them anyhow. If you are longing for a close companion, pray for one. Perhaps joining a small group, calling an acquaintance for coffee, or helping a neighbor will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

No matter what other voices have said, your pain is valid.

Seasons of pain come. And they also leave. Don't miss that. Pain is not meant to linger indefinitely. God cares deeply and longs to heal you. No pain is too great ... or too little. Often we just need a trusted companion to remind us He is near. He heals. He longs to undo the lid on our Mason jar; release our dreams and hopes and joys. And fly next to us, out of the valley.

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us enough to go through the grief of Your Son, Jesus, dying on the cross. He bore our pain. He knows our pain. He heals our pain. Thank You. In His Name, Amen.

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