Have you ever decided to forego the usual answer of “Just fine, thanks!” when someone asks you how you are doing?
To do that means to risk being vulnerable by deciding to be honest with the fact that you are struggling and life isn’t fun right now.
And when you do that, are you met with a Christian platitude and a big smile?
That happened to me recently and to be honest, I felt like I had been slapped.
Yes…I know that He works all things for good.
Yes…I know that He can bring beauty from ashes.
Yes…I know that this too shall pass.
In that moment when I have been honest, I do not need to be told these things.
I need someone to just listen, to say, “I’m sorry” or “I will be praying for you.”
I am not saying that people who spout platitudes are not kind or caring. They are often well-meaning and sweet.
But they are often misguided.
Sometimes I think people don’t know what to do with Christians who are struggling. It seems to make them anxious, like they must have the perfect answer or that they are fearful of standing with you on the dangerous ground of doubt and pain as if your words represent thin ice.
My faith is not wavering. I am keeping a running dialogue with Jesus as I wrestle with Him about the things He has allowed and could have stopped. (By the way, He totally invites us to do that with Him: Isaiah 1:18; I Peter 5:7; Genesis 32:22-32 ). I know that He is good and kind and wise, faithful and utterly trustworthy.
Wrestling is not a sign of lack of faith; it is a healthy sign of a faith that still blazes brightly in the face of darkness and questions. Wrestling is courageous and bold, a willingness to be raw and honest with your Savior, rather than sweeping everything under the rug and pretending your feelings and questions don’t exist. By the very act of wrestling, you are choosing to stay and work it out rather than run away or numb yourself with endless amusements and entertainments.
Wrestling is a refusal to listen to the taunting, cruel voice of the enemy who tells you that you have been abandoned and nothing good is coming. Rather, you open His Word and allow it to light your path (Psalm 119:105) because His Word—not your feelings or circumstances—is the ultimate reality.
For I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion).”—Jesus (Matthew 28:20).
So, the next time a fellow believer shares a struggle with you, please refrain from talking at them by quoting a Bible verse or repeating a tired platitude. To do so is to allow them to leave your presence feeling unheard and isolated.
Instead, look them in the eye, be brave enough to enter into their struggle without feeling that you have to offer any solutions, tell them you are sorry for their pain and keep them in your prayers.
That will be so much more comforting.