How do we manage hardship, loss, brokenness? How do we withstand things that break us, shatter our hearts, leave us debilitated? What do we do when our world crumbles?
There are two responses to such injuries: we shrink or we expand.
When we shrink we cut ourselves off from everything that could cause harm. When we do this, we are guaranteeing that we are safe. We are ensuring that nothing bad will ever happen again. But in order to do that, we end up having to cut ourselves off from all the things that bring joy and beauty into our lives.
Though it seems counterintuitive, the things that bring love, joy, peace, etc. into our lives are also the things that could potentially hurt us.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”—C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Isolating yourself from everyone and everything is a somewhat logical decision if your main goal in life is to never get hurt. But if your goal is greater than simply avoiding pain until the day you die, if your goal is to conquer fears, love well, or even develop new skills, than isolation isn’t an option. You cannot grow in the comfort of your own bubble, you cannot love more without people, you cannot overcome challenges sitting on the sidelines.
The second option is to expand. When we expand, we are able to handle more brokenness, more loss, and more pain because we also have put more love, more joy, more peace into our lives as well. We might be broken and hurt but we find that we can hold more than we ever thought we could. We find that our hearts grow weary and heavy with each passing year, yet hearts also grow as we learn to love in new ways, as the world around us expands and blossoms.
Jesus held all sin, all hardship, all destruction in His arms on the cross. He wept and felt incredible pain. He thought it was worth it, that you were worth it, that the joy and love beyond the grave was worth it. When we choose to expand, to accept the pain along with the beauty, the brokenness along with the healing, the destruction along with the love, we grow. Our capacity for handling and holding what life throws at us expands alongside our capacity to feel and experience love.
When we close our arms to the world, we close ourselves off to everything. When we open our arms wide, we open ourselves up to, yes, more pain but also more beauty, more love, more joy, more of everything.