Every time a new trial shows up in your life, it seems that the door opens for opinion and commentary from just about everyone. If only you would draw closer to God, they say, troubles would leave you. Just read your Bible more and pray without ceasing. God will surely remove the calamity.
Other times we tell each other “you could have made mistakes in the past and these trials are the repercussions of your sin”… as if those on the other side of trouble have some sort of psychic mind into God’s plan for that particular person’s suffering. I’m sure you could list other examples of well-meaning advice you have received that you felt stopped short of reaching your heart where it’s really at.
What if we haven’t sinned in a way to provoke God’s hand? What if we are reading our Bibles and praying to God faithfully? If trouble comes, what then? If your best friend who teaches Sunday school, sings in the choir, leads a prayer group, volunteers at the homeless mission, keeps a neat house and cooks like Betty Crocker finds out that her husband has been brazenly unfaithful to her despite her nearly perfect wifely existence… what then? What constructive “Christian” advice do we give?
Well, there’s always the good ole Christian pep talk. “Count it all joy! It’s in the valleys we grow! Chin up, sister! Remember, God’s got a plan! He’s in control!” None of these things are technically wrong, but sometimes timing our conversation is everything. Our words can be confusing and frustrating for someone with fresh wounds. It’s almost as if as Christians, we don’t grant each other permission to exist in the reality of our suffering.
Existing authentically in our pain is better than denying it or putting on a brave face for the sake of keeping up the appearance that all is well in God’s kingdom. Believe it or not, it’s actually okay to admit that we’re hurting, admit that suffering is painful and that life is not a bed of roses. We learn through suffering that God will extend His protection, provision, refuge and guidance.
When I say “existing authentically,” I’m not talking about throwing a tantrum or wallowing endlessly. But when you’re coping with the troubled reality that is your life God wants to know. He wants you to be honest with Him about how much it hurts, how out of control you think it is, how hopeless you feel, how vulnerable you are.
You may feel guilty telling God how you really feel about your Job-like revolving door of challenging heartache. You may feel somehow ungrateful admitting your anger, or that if you start telling God what’s going on in your heart the tears will never stop. But I promise you, you have permission to be exactly that–broken and sobbing at God’s feet. God wants you in a place where, like Job, you realize in faith that “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15)
Let us grant ourselves and others the permission to live in the storm. Let us no longer give pat answers to major trials in each other’s lives. We don’t always have all the answers, but we can lean on each other for comfort and point to God as the true comforter, the One who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
Pat answers, no. A shoulder to cry on, yes. This is a more true picture of friendship.
Originally published in the Fall 2011 Real Women Real Life
Oak Creek Assembly of God Women’s Ministry Newsletter