I wonder what would happen if people stopped hiding behind masks and started saying how they really felt. I mean, the typical conversation begins this way:
“Hi, how are you?”
“I’m fine, and you?”
“Doing great, thanks!”
Both speakers wear a pleasant smile yet all the while their eyes are frantically screaming another story, “I’m not fine. I’m struggling.” Any attempts to tie down a deeper answer results in a reassurance that the conversant is doing just fine.
Both persons walk away either screaming on the inside, or mentally congratulating themselves for having survived a conversation like a “normal person”.
Pretty soon we manage to convince ourselves that everything is fine and we tamp down our emotions and hide them under a rock.
But what if we actually said how we truly felt? What if when asked how we felt we spoke the truth, not as we would like it to be but as it truly is?
Instead of saying, “I’m doing okay.” Let’s say:
“I’m struggling to understand why God allowed my unborn baby to die.”
“I’m struggling to find my place in the church and my role as a believer.”
“I’m going through a divorce and I don’t know how to handle it.”
“I’m not okay, I could use some help.”
“I’ve cheated on my spouse and the guilt is tearing me apart on the inside.”
“I’ve just lost my job and I no longer believe that God will supply all my needs.”
“I’m being abused by the person who is supposed to protect me. Where is God when I’m being hurt at nights?”
Would honest answers scare away some people?
Without a doubt, yes. But, is it possible that maybe being honest would lead to more meaningful relationships?
Or maybe we’re going about this the wrong way. Maybe we should take our worries to God.
Maybe we should stop expecting our friends, or our spouses or our children to bind up our wounds. Maybe it’s not for the church leaders or members to be the balm that soothes our souls.
Maybe the answer is that we take it to Jesus.
Can I make a confession? I find it soooo hard to take my troubles to Jesus.
I’ve gotten so used to telling everyone that I’m fine that I sometimes find myself doing the same thing when I pray. And that’s why I love the story of Hannah so much. We read her story in I Samuel I.
In a nutshell, Hannah was the first wife of Elkanah. She was unable to bear children and so was provoked by her rival Penninah.
On one particular occasion she was so provoked that her husband noticed it. “Why are you miserable?” he asked. Instead of answering like I would have, she kept her mouth shut and took it to God.
I Samuel 1:15 says that Hannah “poured out soul before the Lord”. Here was a woman who knew that she would not find solace in speaking to her contemporaries.
Maybe she had tried it and it had a bad taste in her mouth. But she knew that there was a God who listens and answers prayers. Now I’m thinking that even if God had not responded by removing her barrenness, she would have still been okay because in pouring out her heart she was able to leave her troubles at Jesus’ feet.
The lesson I want us to learn from Hannah is how to “pour out our hearts before God”. Here are three ways to bare ourselves before God:
1. Acknowledge that God knows everything about you anyways. Unlike a human being who has to take our word for it, God knows exactly how we’re feeling.
He knows when we put on a façade and he knows when we’re saying we’re fine but are struggling with deep issues. This should have a freeing effect on us.
It actually makes it easier to share our deepest sorrows because we don’t have to pretend.
2. Remember that God loves us always. I think one of the reasons why we hide behind social niceties is that we are afraid of what people will think about us if we told them what we are struggling with.
Can you imagine the field day some persons would have if they knew that Sister So-and-So was struggling with depression? Or that Brother So-and-So cheated on his wife?
There would still be others who would not believe that your struggle is real. We tend to judge people based on how they appear. We think that a person who is struggling should look a particular way.
We can’t see the desperation in another person’s eyes, we don’t see their secret tears but God does. And he still loves us. He keeps pursuing us and drawing us back to himself. Not because he has anything to gain but because he wants to give us the very best of himself.
3. God wants to hear our troubles. We’re not going to bore him, okay. He won’t think that we’re bothering him when we tell him about our lives.
He’s genuinely concerned about everything that we do. We only need to read Leviticus chapter 19 to realize that God is truly concerned with every single area of our lives.
Sometimes when we are going through our struggles we allow our emotions to color the character of God.
We tell ourselves that God not faithful or that he is “doing bad things to us.” It’s at these times in our walk that we need to remind ourselves of all that God has done for us.
We need to remind ourselves of who he is. The best way to do this is to read his word and focus on certain aspects of it. But when we’re going through a trial it’s hard to digest huge passages of scripture. Here are some verses that you can focus on when we’re not okay.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 (NLT)
"There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. I Samuel 2:2 (NASB)
He said: LORD God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth below, keeping the gracious covenant with Your servants who walk before You with their whole heart. I Kings 8:23 (HCSB)
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22 (NIV)
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good. Proverbs 15:3 (NIV)
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:18-19 (NIV)
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18 (KJV)
So what should our answer be the next time someone asks us how we’re doing?
Should we overload them with our
worries and risk being the recipient of a sermon on how little our faith is?
This is what I’m going to try, if I’m doing good, I’ll say it.
But if not I’ll say instead, “I’m not okay but God is still good”. This will be an affirmation for my soul.
I’m not okay but God is still my Creator and I’m still alive.
I’m not okay but the planet continues to turn.
I’m not okay but God still answers the cry of his people.
I’m not okay but God is still God.
What will be your response? Share them with us in the comments below.