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Below is an excerpt from Craving Connection, a new book written by 30 different (in)courage writers. Renee Swope, author of chapter five, is a Word-lover, heart-encourager, story-teller and grace-needer. She’s the best-selling author of A Confident Heart and A Confident Heart Devotional - both books inspired Renee's A Confident Heart Collection at DaySpring. She is also the former radio co-host of "Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee" at Proverbs 31 Ministries, where she served in leadership for twenty years.
“Should I be honest?” I wondered. “What if I start crying? What if she doesn’t really have time to listen? What if she is just asking to be nice? I could keep it simple and tell her I’m fine.”
There I was, standing in the lobby at church waiting for my husband to return from the children’s ministry area, when an old friend walked up and asked how I was doing. Our three-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with a severe speech disorder and a few weeks earlier, and I was not “fine.”
I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. And I was afraid my little girl might never be able to talk.
Yet I felt like I shouldn’t be any of these things. I should have more faith, more stamina, more strength and courage to navigate the unknown path of special needs parenting.
Sometimes it’s hard to let people know how we’re really doing because we don’t want to be high maintenance, right? We don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us. Or we fear if we’re honest, someone might perceive our struggle as a lack of faith.
The one thing a hurting heart doesn’t need is a “sidewalk sermon” that translates into guilt because we perceive others expect us to be stronger. We’ve all had a well-intended Bible verse poured over our problems like peroxide, hoping it will wash all our un-fine feelings away. But when our hearts need more than a Scripture promise, we feel like failures.
Sometimes the risk of being misunderstood or judged feels so great, we think we have to pretend we’re fine.
Sometimes it’s hard to let people know how we’re really doing because we think they are only asking to be nice. It’s easy to believe they don’t really care to know, don’t have time to listen. What if we’re honest and it gets awkward because they don’t know what to say?
Yet there are those times when someone sincerely wants to know and we just don’t want to tell them. That is the place where things get tricky for me.
I will tell people I’m fine even when I’m not, because I want to be. I don’t want the struggle that’s in front of me. I don’t want to be weak and broken. I want to be okay. I want to feel strong, resilient, and courageous.
Or, I will tell people I’m fine because I hope that by saying, “I’m fine” eventually I will be. Like somehow verbalizing what I want to feel could be a predicting factor in how I might turn out one day.
Other times I think we’re afraid to be honest because if we tell someone we are feeling insecure or inadequate, they might start seeing us as someone who IS insecure, weak, and inadequate. When really, the struggle was temporary. Not a permanent lens through which to view us.
And then there are times I act like and tell others I’m fine because I think that’s what people expect of me.
Of course there are days when my hormones trump all good manners and, if my people are within ten feet, they know I am NOT fine. In fact, if I tell them I am, what I really mean is that I am:
But not in public. Not where I try to keep people from seeing the F.I.N.E. deep inside me.
And that is where I stood that day in the lobby at church. At a pivotal point of decision. Should I be honest and let my friend see the real me? Should I tell her how I’m really doing?
Everything in me wanted to keep my guard up, keep my heart sealed off and my lips sealed tight.
But I was tired. Tired of pretending I was fine. So I took a risk. I let my heart, my words, and my tears spill. I shared the hard parts of countless assessments and an unexpected diagnoses, and the heartache of not knowing if our little girl would be able to talk for years.
Kelly listened. Although I know she probably had places to go, she stayed with me. She grabbed some tissue when the tears started down my cheeks. And she asked if there was anything she could do to help.
When I wanted to be strong, God showed me the powerful gift of being weak.
Paul describes what happens when God allows struggles that make us feel weak. And what God does in our weakness when we’re willing to rely on Christ. God’s power comes and rests on us.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he 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. 2 Corinthians 12:7 NIV
Right before this passage, Paul had described incredible visions and revelations God had given him, but then he switched gears in his letter to his friends in Corinth. There was a clear shift from focusing on his weakness to boasting in the Lord’s faithfulness.
God allowed Paul to struggle with a weakness he had asked God to take away. But God allowed this hardship to continue, and in this passage of Scripture Paul explains how God was protecting from pride and the danger of becoming self-sufficient.
There’s nothing that can hinder community and friendships more than us not needing each other. Like Paul, I think God wants us to become more comfortable with our weaknesses because it keeps us dependent on Him and needing each other.
Want more? Grab Craving Connection today, or to learn more about the (in)courage/DaySpring connection, read our article: What is (in)courage? To see the full line of NEW friendship gifts from (in)courage, click here.
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