It was a simple enough text.
I should have been able to answer it easily, quickly, without much thought.
That text sat unanswered on my phone for hours.
Overnight even. I stewed over my reply.
Should I be honest?
Not great. I’m struggling. The world is falling apart and it sucks and I hate it and I feel like I’m slipping into a dark place.
Or should I put on my well-worn mask of positivity and encouragement?
We’re good! The kids are loving remote schooling. Everyone is healthy. It’s so nice to have all this extra time together as a family. <3 How are YOU??
Both responses are true.
We ARE good. We are so blessed it’s ridiculous. My job has imploded obviously — No one is booking travel these days! — but we don’t depend on my income to make ends meet, and my husband is able to work from home. We have food, shelter, health, education… Even the dog is fine.
But we’re also NOT good. I’m an extrovert. There’s no hiding that. I didn’t realize how MUCH I needed other people and wide spaces, though, until I was trapped in this house with the same four people for days — WEEKS! — without end.
So how am I?
I’m sad. I’m overwhelmed. I’m discouraged and tired and weary.
And that’s okay.
Too often we feel like we have to be happy. Not just happy, but chipper. Not just chipper, but a buoy for everyone else.
We want to encourage and uplift, but that could mean sitting in the muck with others rather than trying to lift them out. Sometimes encouragement comes from being vulnerable and truthful about how we really feel in a situation.
As a society we now scoff at #firstworldproblems. We’ve invalidated the frustrations and complaints of anyone who lives seemingly better than most. The result: those who know they have it good feel they should never confess discontent.
I’m not dealing with world hunger or devastating poverty. My daughter is not being trafficked and my son is not an addict. My husband is good and loving and kind. But none of this means that roses are popping up every morning and little woodland creatures sing while cleaning my house. It doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle. Nor does it mean that I need to downplay my honest feelings about life.
And neither do you.
Right now the world is upside down. Life is crazy, and we’re all going through something none of us have experienced before. IT IS OKAY TO FEEL UNSETTLED.
Having negative emotions does not negate our faith nor deny that we know we’re blessed. Faith is not proven by ever-present positive attitudes.
Want proof? Read the Psalms. These writings are filled with despair, but no one looks at them and shakes a judgmental head at the authors. No. We strive to learn from them, to glean wisdom and faith through their example.
So here’s my advice for today: Take the time to feel what you feel. Then choose not to get stuck there.
Sure, I spent time falling apart last week. I curled up on the floor next to my bed and cried. I lamented our lack of control. I confessed my sadness and discouragement and how I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel (or rather: an end to this stay-at-home quarantine order). But once my tears were spent, I got up off the floor.
When you read through those biblical psalms of lament, the ones in which the authors cry out to God in pain and frustration, you’ll notice two things:
- The psalmists are not afraid to be honest with God. They call Him out from their limited perspectives, accusing Him of judgment, rejection, punishment, silence, apathy… all kinds of ill-treatment. They confess their true feelings and demand attention. They want their enemies slaughtered; they want restoration, and they want it now. We think of the Psalms as beautifully-phrased poetry — and they are! But they’re also courageously honest.
- The psalmists don’t stay in the pits. Almost every one of those psalms ends with praise. The writers vent and yell and cry and plead, but then they remember who God is and the power and position He holds.
Go ahead. Look for yourself. Spend some time today in the Psalms minding the journeys and patterns of petition.
Now let’s imitate that.
Yes, we’re in a difficult situation now, so let’s be honest about it. Shout out your feelings, your fears, your frustrations to God. God isn’t surprised by our true thoughts. Nor is He intimidated by our proclamations of them. Why?
Because of who He is.
He is the Creator. He is a good, good Father who loves us and seeks to bring us favor. He is POWERFUL and He has this whole world — including this pandemic — in His very capable hands.
Does this mean He’s going to cure it immediately? That all who are sick will walk away healed? That the economy will be saved and our nation will thrive more than ever before?
I don’t know.
None of us know the answers to those questions. We don’t know exactly what the future holds. What we can know right now is this: HE IS.
Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God;
my strong rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge.
— Psalm 63:5–8 (HCSB)