Why is it that pain overrides joy? Days, months, and years of “good” can be wiped out by one moment of “bad,” and affect us for a long time.

Such was *nearly* the case one afternoon, back when I was still a daycare mama. By far, my favorite things about my years spent in daycare were the cuddles from my kiddos. There’s something special about being showered with hugs and kisses from exuberant children.

The best hugs were always before naptime. Worn out from a morning of play and with full bellies, most of the children enjoyed a lingering squeeze as I tucked them into bed.

One child enjoyed being carried to bed, although the tot could walk. (I’m going to disguise this a little, so no one figures out who it was!) šŸ™‚ The toddler always snuggled into my shoulder as I walked from the kitchen to the sleeping area. I enjoyed their chubbiness melting into my arms, and looked forward to our little ritual every afternoon.

But all that changed one day. Little One rested their cheek on my shoulder as usual, sleepy and smiling.

The next moment I yelped and nearly dropped the child, as sharp little teeth clamped down on my shoulder.

If you’ve ever been bitten, you know it hurts like crazy. It’s the kind of hurt that makes you wary of ever being bitten again.

So the next day after lunch, when Little One wanted to snuggle into my neck as usual, I hesitated. I did not want to experience that pain again.

Yet, I loved this child, and they obviously needed love in return. And as a daycare mama, I couldn’t keep all my kiddos at arm’s length forever, right? So I (somewhat cautiously) carried Little One to bed, letting those chubby arms wrap around me once more.

Little One never bit me again.

It wasn’t comfortable to allow that closeness again, but I would have missed out on hundreds of snuggles had I protected myself “just in case.”

In my 4 1/2 years at Sweet Peas Daycare, not every moment was golden. In dealing with temper tantrums and tears, there was a bit of pain involved. It didn’t happen often, but I did have children occasionally lash out at me.

What would have happened if I decided I didn’t want to be hurt anymore?

Yes, I may have saved myself some pain.

But I would have missed out on a whole lot of love.

The same is true in life. Sadly, people we love will hurt us. Simple misunderstandings bring a measure of pain, but wounds of betrayal or abandonment will cut deep and take a long time to heal.

When this happens, we are faced with a choice:

Protect ourselves, or open up our hearts to love again.

Yes, building a wall of protection around our hearts may be the safest choice. Wide open arms leave a lot of vulnerable space to be attacked.

Yet, are towering walls the best choice in the end? Those walls may bring safety from outward pain, but they will also bring loneliness, lack of purpose, and pain of the heart.

(I want to take a moment to explain that I’m not speaking of toxic relationships in this post. Sadly, I’ve seen both men and women suffer pain at the hands of someone who claims to love them, but who does not. If you are in this kind of relationship, I advise you to seek help from a trusted, godly friend or pastor.)

What I am speaking of is this:

Allowing the pain of past hurts to prevent us from ever loving again will rob us of much joy.

I’ve seen those who’ve been offended by one Christian refuse to ever attend church again. I’ve watched individuals close themselves off to all friendships due to one friend hurting them. I’ve witnessed those who refuse to trust anyone after the betrayal of a single person.

I know it’s hard. Wow, do I know it. After my marriage ended, I confess I built walls around my heart. But as time progressed and God did a miraculous work of healing in my life, I realized I needed to tear them down.

I didn’t want to go through life looking through eyes of suspicion at those I met, wary that I would be wounded again. I wanted to love and be loved, regardless of the pain I’d experienced.

If you’ve been hurt, I’m so very sorry. But please don’t allow that pain to keep you from ever reaching out again.

When it comes to loving in spite of pain, Jesus is our perfect example. Though He knew He would be rejected, He still came to earth to make a way of salvation for us.

As His followers, we will experience pain and betrayal throughout our lives. Yet still Jesus calls us to love, risk, and endure—to love as He loved.

Barricading your heart may keep you safe, but it will also steal your joy.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” {I Corinthians 13:4, 7, 13}

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