Britney Lyn Hamm Don't Fear the Pain

Do Not Fear the Pain

Britney Lyn Hamm Don't Fear the PainTen years ago, in preparation for the natural birth of our first child, my husband and I took a childbirth class with a doula. She taught us many helpful things, but one of the most impactful was this: do not fear the pain. Fear is the enemy of pain. Fear makes pain worse.

She explained that instead of allowing my body to tense up in fearful response to the pain, I would need to embrace the pain…to breathe into the pain, which would relax my body and help me get through it. Leaning into the pain instead of fighting against it would allow my delivery to progress more quickly and smoothing. Healing and joy would be in closer reach if I could embrace the pain, not fight it, not run from it, not try to ignore it (which, as anyone who’s been in labor can tell you, is impossible!), not fear it.

Four natural births later, I can attest that her counsel was spot on. Tensing up when a contraction began or intensified never helped. Leaning into my amazing birth partner (my husband), putting all my weight into him, and breathing deeply into the pain so that my body could relax, did help. It didn’t remove the pain, but it got me through it, one contraction at a time. With each labor, I learned to do this better. Though my labors got shorter and more intense, each one became “easier”—I became calmer, more confident, and more relaxed through the contractions.

I learned the lesson about pain in childbirth, and I now teach it to my kids when they stub their toe or run into a wall (that happens frequently in our household). I fix my eyes on their wide eyes or take their tense little body in my arms, wrap my arms around them, and say, “breathe through the pain. Relax.” We take a deep breath together, and they get through it.

The last couple years have taught me how true this is in life as well. Fearing the pain of whatever we are going through makes for a more painful and extended process. Often it even inhibits healing and squashes the joy that is on the other side – and even in the midst of – pain and grief.

If we want to heal well, if we want to birth joy and spiritual fruit through our suffering, then we can’t run from grief. We can’t ignore our heartache. We can’t cover our sorrow in Christian cliches and spiritual platitudes. We can’t tense up in fear of what the pain will do to us.

Instead of fighting against the pain, we fight for joy in the midst of the pain, just as I fought alongside the pain for the birth of my children. We lean into the pain, leaning against our ultimate birth partner, our Heavenly Father, breathing deeply against His chest, feeling every moment of the pain with our eyes fixed on the goal at the end of the pain.

This morning, a song and communion followed the sermon. As soon as the first chords of the song struck on the guitar, overwhelming emotion flooded me. I knew that song. It’s one of the three songs we sang at the funeral of a dear friend’s child, who passed into the arms of Jesus exactly two years ago today. I could barely sing a word through my tears as I was transported back in time to a day that is poignantly seared in my mind as the most profound worship experience of my life – singing songs of praise with our hands lifted high, tears streaming down our faces, and hearts breaking at a funeral with a casket far too small.

I know it wasn’t a coincidence that we sang that song today. The Lord was inviting me to grieve, to remember, to pray for my friends. He was inviting me into that place of lamenting worship, a place where He always draws me near and meets me with profound comfort.

After lunch, I came upstairs to have some quiet Jesus time and writing time while my kids nap/rest. I turn on Pandora, and what’s the first song to come on? The same song. Again. Cue another round of tears. I sent my husband a text with a screenshot of my Pandora: “Apparently the Lord is drawing me to worship in the grief today. Both the grief for our friends and everything that season of life became for us in the short few weeks after Sadie’s passing.”

That song ended. Another song came on. It was the song we sang at the end of Easter service at my brother’s church nearly two years ago after my dad had his stroke, my parents’ marriage blew up, and our family turned inside out. Worshipping that Easter Sunday, while processing grief and pain on a variety of levels, is the second most poignant worship experience of my life. I can remember exactly what I felt and thought as I sang that song, arms lifted high, tears streaming down my face. I can remember locking eyes with my big brother as he played drums on the stage, knowing that the song was speaking the same thing to us.

Today, God gave me three invitations to embrace the pain. I could have left the room or skipped the songs. The thought crossed my mind – I hate crying, after all. But then I would have missed the profound beauty of His presence in those moments as I allowed myself to remember and grieve for my friends, myself, and my family.  I would have missed the way He fills me with hope and joy as the song ends and relief rushes through my heart like relief flooding my body as one contraction flows into a moment of reprieve. I would have missed reflecting on all the marks of His grace and mercy over the last two years. I would have missed the opportunity to reach out to my friends with a word of support.

I don’t live in a constant state of dwelling on the grief and pain of my own experiences or those close to me. But when these invitations come, when it’s time to reflect and grieve, I take a deep breath, lean into Jesus, and embrace the pain for the moment. Because I’ve learned that there’s nothing to fear in the pain; in fact, there is beauty to be found there.

Friends, whatever pain you are experiencing today, whatever griefs and sorrows you are tempted to fear, to tense up against, to run from, to hide, to escape, to ignore, to smother with unhelpful platitudes, to fight against, I encourage you: Embrace the pain. Take a deep breath. Lean into your Heavenly Father. Feel Him drawing you close, championing you as He whispers in your ear, “We’ll get through this. Trust me. The pain is not the end of this story.” Sing His praise as you cry out and lament, as you remember and grieve, as you question and wrestle.

Don’t fear the pain, because the greater the pain, the greater the joy on the other side.


Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart – He finds it full – He begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace….Another reason why we are often happiest in our troubles is this – then we have the closest dealings with God…There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains, no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. They bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, trouble believer, do not fret over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.

(Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, February 12th)


(1) I will exalt you, Adonai, because you drew me up;
you didn’t let my enemies rejoice over me.
(2) Adonai my God, I cried out to you,
and you provided healing for me.
(3) Adonai, you lifted me up from Sh’ol;
you kept me alive when I was sinking into a pit.

(4) Sing praise to Adonai, you faithful of his;
and give thanks on recalling his holiness.
(5) For his anger is momentary,
but his favor lasts a lifetime.
Tears may linger for the night,
but with dawn come cries of joy.

(6) Once I was prosperous and used to say,
that nothing could ever shake me —
(7) when you showed me favor, Adonai,
I was firm as a mighty mountain.
But when you hid your face,
I was struck with terror.

(8) I called to you, Adonai;
to Adonai I pleaded for mercy:
(9) “What advantage is there in my death,
in my going down to the pit?
Can the dust praise you?
Can it proclaim your truth?
(10) Hear me, Adonai, and show me your favor!
Adonai, be my helper!”

(11) You turned my mourning into dancing!
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
 (12) so that my well-being can praise you and not be silent;
Adonai my God, I will thank you forever!

Psalm 30 (Complete Jewish Bible translation)

Worshiping in the Blood of Your Loss

Worshiping in the blood of your lossIt’s been a heavy week.

And not just because my toddler ended up with 5 stitches (although that did happen).

Last Thursday, a childhood friend of mine evacuated her home in with her husband and toddler, narrowly escaping the fury of flames that tore through Northern California in the Camp Fire, now considered the most destructive and deadliest wildfire in CA state history. Their home, along with 90% of the town, Paradise, has been destroyed.

Come, Lord Jesus, come soon, I whispered through tears Friday morning when I woke up to read the scope of the devastation

Sunday, as I gathered with my church family for corporate worship, heart heavy with grief for my friends and their community, more tears fell as I sang…

“And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that You are holy” (All the Poor and Powerless, All Sons & Daughters)

“I am sure of this
That I will see Your goodness in the land of the living” (Psalm 27, Greg Lafollette)

“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise” (Come Thou Fount)

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander” (Oceans, Hillsong)

I don’t know how much more situationally pointed those truths can get. Talk about a Spirit-led set list.


Worshiping in Brokenness

How could I sing praise to God with my church family, knowing what my friends are going through? How can my friends gather for worship services and point to reminders of God’s goodness in a time of such hardship?

They are questions worth asking, because, if you haven’t noticed, these things are happening around us all the time. Wildfires. Shootings. Injustice. Racism. Domestic violence. Sickness. Death. Sexual abuse. Natural disasters. Need I go on?

The question isn’t if they’ll happen. They will happen. To us, or to someone close to us.

We can’t offer pat, cliché answers. We can’t try to explain it away. We can’t minimize the pain of those who are suffering. We can’t put on a happy face and sweep our pain aside.

No, the real question we must ask is where do we turn when they do happen?

The answer is simple, but far from easy: we turn to worship.

We turn to worship for one simple reason:

Because He is still good.

We turn in worship to the goodness of the Living God. We cling to the hope of knowing that “we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living.” We rejoice because we know this is not all there is, and the heartache and devastation of this life will come to an end.

What else is there to cling to?

I wrote a blog post back in February about the statement that stuck out in my devotional, “And if not, He is still good.” I had no idea when I penned that post how much that simple statement would shape my perspective as I processed through some tough things from 2017. Nor did I have any idea how it would prepare my heart to deal with some of the heartbreak happening in the lives of those around me in 2018 – such as this. In fact, I had literally just shared that quote and how it has impacted me with the very friend who lost her home. To which she replied,

The older I get the more I realize that life is full of hardship and grief. Suffering is a part of our calling, I think.

This exchange was less than one month ago.


The Tango of Worship and Lament

Worship and lament are not mutually exclusive. Despite what our happy-go-lucky American Christian culture has taught us, worship and lament do not only exist apart from each other.

In fact, I’ve heard it said that lament is the highest form of worship.

Look at the Psalms. Nearly half of them are considered laments, yet the Psalmist nearly always ends in worship – acknowledging and affirming the goodness of God and his unmitigated hope in God despite the circumstances.

Why? How can it be that lament is the highest form of worship?

A couple years ago, my husband and I got to hear the amazing story of a missionary named Gary who lost his wife on the mission field in the Middle East. You can read his whole story in his book – there are powerful lessons to be learned about forgiveness – but here’s the part I first heard that profoundly impacted me.

His wife was murdered, shot in the head three times, by an Al-Qaeda terrorist. With her blood splattered all over the floor and the walls of the medical clinic where she worked, Gary did the unthinkable. He got down on the floor and lay his face in her blood where he proceeded to sing the hymn, “I Surrender All.”

As he later told John, his friend who we heard speak a couple years ago,

“I knew if I didn’t worship right then and there, I would never worship again.”

(Watch this video starting at minute 22 to hear John tell this story and talk about worship in grief).

Three weeks ago, my husband met Gary and heard more of his story. Gary said we Westerners get worship all wrong. We think worship only happens when we’re happy. We look at worship as the mountaintops, the spiritual highs, the outflow of the joy that’s already within us.

But what if the truth is that worship produces joy? That worship in the valleys is the very thing that brings us to the mountaintop?

What if Gary is right, that if we don’t put our faces in the blood of our loss and declare, in the middle of total heartache, utter devastation, complete loss, “Even still, You are good,” we’ll miss the deepest worship we could ever express?


Proclaiming He is Good in All Things

We don’t have to lay aside our grief to worship. We don’t have to pretend everything is fine in order to proclaim the goodness of God. We don’t have to set aside real life to come to church for some superficial experience singing songs of praise to God while our hearts scream inwardly in lament.

Instead, we can worship in our grief.

Such as my friends, who lost their 3-year-old child after she battled one unexpected health issue after another, yet still proclaimed through deep grief, He is faithful.

Such as a woman from Bible study, who lost her husband with two small children to care for at home, yet who responded to the gentle urging of the Spirit one afternoon…”Sing my praise.”

Such as a friend, who recounts how she held her premature baby in her arms for a mere few hours before releasing her to the arms of Jesus, yet who through her tears whispers in all sincerity, “He’s been so good to us.”

Such as pastor friends, who fight through unexplained nerve pain and loss of use of the husband’s arms as they  minister in a culture hostile to Christianity, yet who declare the sufficiency of God in all things on a global platform.

Such as my best girl friend, who goes to work every weekend to care for little ones born far too early with insurmountable health problems, who walks newborn babies to the morgue with bereaved parents wailing behind her, yet whose own faith in the love and mercy of God remains unshaken week after week.

This, friends, this is worship.

When natural disasters take lives and destroy towns, He is still good.

When toddlers slice their fingers on cans and need stitches, He is still good.

When you face the uncertainty of a pregnancy complication, He is still good.

When the chronic pain continues with no relief, He is still good.

When loved ones turn their backs on Jesus, He is still good.

When spouses are murdered by terrorists or die slowly of cancer, He is still good.

When marriages are everything they shouldn’t be and nothing they should be, He is still good.

When little ones die before they have a chance to live, He is still good.

Friends, we live in a broken world. Let’s not pretend we don’t. Let’s not push one another to false “I’m fines” and plastered churchy smiles and shallow Christianese platitudes.

Let’s push each other to weep. To dig deep into grief. To take our questions and doubts to God, crying out as the Psalmist did time and time again. To deal genuinely with the pain and suffering of this broken world. Let’s push each other to stick our faces in the blood of the very thing we’ve lost, all the while proclaiming, “It’s not ok. This is not ok. But He is still good, and one day He will make it ok again. Because of that, I can worship.”

For more on the topic of suffering, listen to this amazing sermon my husband preached on October 28.

If you would like to help my friends as they seek to rebuild their lives so that they can continue their ministry to their community, please consider purchasing something from their Amazon wish list. Thank you.

If you would like to help others affected by Camp Fire, many of whom my friends know, considering joining this Facebook group and adopting a family.