A question has been pressing on my mind in recent weeks since returning to the United States.
My question is this:
Why is it that some difficult situations in life seem to be more acceptable, more tolerable and safer to share about than others?
What do I mean?
For example, when someone is diagnosed with cancer – it doesn’t matter what age, what gender, what marital status, what occupation this person is – when cancer invades someone’s life, it’s a very common practice to share about it.
Another example, certainly not as life threatening, but a challenge nonetheless is when a child or teenager breaks a bone. It’s okay to convey the challenging news.
We also feel comfortable in sharing about a recent vehicle accident, whether car, boat or bicycle, and the difficulties that arise from the vehicular damage and the bodily injuries. It’s okay, it seems, to talk about these hardships, too.
There are other challenges in life that are easier to share about, too. I’m sure.
However, there seems to me to be a much longer list of nearly-taboo topics we often just don’t want to talk about, to be known or identified with, or to be labeled or to be limited by in life. The problem is that these challenges are very much in play in our lives – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And because we don’t share about our problems, don’t talk about them, keep handling this very-hard-thing all-by-ourselves, we are suffering.
But we don’t admit it.
We tell our family. We convey to our friends. We show the world that we are okay on the outside – even though we are really, really, really, really hurting on the inside.
What is ailing us?
Let me share an incomplete list…
Over-spending and materialism
Arrogance and anger
Doubt and Insecurity
My list could go on and on.
Who wants to admit to any of the things that stop us in our tracks, and prevent us from living strong into the life Jesus Christ has for us?
Who will admit to something like, “I am so jealous of their family”?
Who is willing to say, “I am so paralyzed by my doubt and insecurity”?
Who will confess, “I am so mediocre. I have never taken a risk in my life.”
Or who will ask, “Did I fail my child? Is their behavior and set of life choices a reflection of my parenting – or lack thereof?”
These are hard, self-reflective, cut-to-the-chase questions. These questions are also indicative of the fact that life is full of hindrances, setbacks, difficulties, and pain. So much pain that the suffering that results from these situations makes it very challenging to talk about – mainly because we don’t feel safe to share.
Who wants to hear about our jealousy, fears and doubts, mediocrity, failures as a parent, or any other hardship that we are facing right now?
It’s okay to share about my cancer. But I don’t feel secure in talking about my over-spending.
It’s alright to talk about my son’s broken bone. However, I don’t feel safe telling you about my fears.
It’s understandable that I tell you about my car accident, but please don’t ask me about my depression.
Maybe it’s because some of our challenges are self-inflicted or we feel that we should be strong enough, wise enough, and capable enough to handle them – all by ourselves.
In reading some words from Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Church, I’m not convinced that he believed that we should all just suck-it-up, keep quiet in our pain, and deal with our difficulties all by ourselves.
Here is what Paul says regarding his own health challenges and other life complications:
But he (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
New International Version, 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
Paul describes the thorn in his flesh as a predicament with purpose and promise.
His greatest weakness would serve as his Lord’s greatest opportunity to display the power of Jesus Christ in his life. So, he decided to proclaim his struggle. And not just his physical maladies, but he would also boast about the insults, the misunderstandings, the hardships, the persecutions, the sufferings, and the losses, too.
We don’t do that.
We don’t boast about our failures.
We don’t proclaim our deceptions.
We don’t announce our addictions.
We don’t herald our greed.
We don’t expound upon our losses.
We don’t share our struggles. Period.
But, what if we did?
What if we chose to find one or two people, maybe even a trusted group, where we could be real and authentic about our weaknesses and in so doing show how Christ’s power was working in and through our trials and difficulties for the kingdom of God????
Honestly, as followers of Christ, we are Kingdom of God people. And because we are Kingdom of God people, our weaknesses, our difficulties, our struggles, our hardships, our failures, and all of our suffering have Kingdom of God purposes!!!! I can’t tell you how. I don’t know. What I do know is that God can be trusted to help us, strengthen us, defend us, and grow us through each and every one of these hard things.
Will we believe that God is sufficient – even when we feel so desperately insufficient?
Will we believe that God is able – even when we struggle in our inability?
Will we believe that God is trustworthy and faithful in times of bitter hardship and cut-to-the-heart pain?
Will we believe that we are loved inside-and-out by God, his Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and that they are with us constantly, always-and-forever – no matter how hard things get?
Here are a few steps towards the belief that God is enough and that He is able and trustworthy.
Will we give these steps a go?
First, we will admit and then share our weakness and challenge with the Lord – and if we can, at least one other trusted person.
Two, we will ask for help. Ask for prayers. Ask for someone to walk with us on our journey.
Three, we will ask for the strength and power of God to meet us in our weakness, struggle, suffering, and pain. We can pray through verses like these:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
New International Version, Isaiah 41:10
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are his everlasting arms.
New International Version Deuteronomy 33:27
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
New International Version, 1 Peter 4: 7
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
New International Version, Psalm 62:1-2
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
New International Version, 1 Peter 5:10
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
New International Version, John 14:27
My dear friends, life is hard. Very hard. However, we were never, ever, ever meant to live this life in isolation nor, in hiding. We were created to be in authentic, real relationships with our Lord and with others. It is my encouragement to myself and to you that we share when life is good, but we also share when life is tough. Not with everyone of course. Not everyone will understand what we are working through – but some one will. In fact, I bet it will be someone who has walked or is walking with a similar life struggle. They’ll get it.
It’s okay to share – no matter what the issue is – with our God. Allow Him to work through this situation and use this time of weakness and difficulty to demonstrate His goodness, His love, His faithfulness, His grace, and His love in our lives.
I have found my God to be sufficient – even in horrendously painful times.
It is my prayer that you also discover the Lord to be your light and your salvation. It is my prayer that you will have nothing to fear! May the Lord be your stronghold and protector. When the wicked advance against you and try to destroy you, may the Lord make your enemies stumble and fall. Though the difficulties, hardships, persecutions and insults besiege you, you will not fear. Instead, you will be confident in the Lord’s power, grace and love and will not be shaken. You will stand upon the rock of his salvation.
It all begins by sharing what is ailing us.
What’s on your mind?
What is troubling your heart?
What is keeping you awake at night?
Talk to God.
Share with someone.
Ask for the Lord’s power and strength today. And every day.
I am praying you will
With love always,