I’m Not OK and That’s OKAY!
“How are you doing?”
It’s one of the most common questions asked of people that care about you. I am always appreciative when people are kind enough to ask about me. It suggests a level of selflessness and concern that people don’t have to express. These calls and messages of kindness are also a source of strength when going through hard times. However, do you ever find yourself, despite circumstances, giving the automatic and trained response of affirmative well being despite your actual, transparent present truth?
“I’m fine… good… doing pretty good... “
“I’m NOT good… terrible… hurting beyond description… angry… at the breaking point…”
This is rarely ever my response. Instead I will myself to give the most positive answer I can “blessed and highly favored” knowing good and well I’m really “broken and hardly functioning.”
Why do we do this?
Candidly, I simply don’t want to share negative energy. Even if it means masking my mood, I want others to feel better in my presence than they did before they came. Bottom line, I want to be positive.
But when we take this approach time and time again, are we really holding ourselves to an unrealistic standard that even Christ didn’t set for Himself?
What was the image of Christ in moments that He was in pain?
My mind keeps going back to Jesus at the cross. One of the countless things I love about the Lord is that in all His sovereignty, He was still fully human and completely related to our natural emotional responses of anger, sadness, questioning and even pain. The beauty of the cross, especially at this point of my life, is that Jesus didn’t pretend not to feel. As many times as I’ve heard and even taught on Jesus’ 7 last sayings on the cross, I realize at times I missed the mere humanity in His experience.
The anguish of Jesus’ physical and spiritual pain in His suffering and separation is evident at the cross, and if Jesus in all of His omnipotence can express His pain and suffering why is it that we that are in the body of Christ are always so quick to mask ours?
I believe that the lack of transparency within the church (body of believers) to honestly express our weaknesses prevents healing and hinders discipleship.
Here is what I am continuing to learn each day in this season of sometimes unbearable pain.
In order to heal:
1. We need to F.EEL
It’s impossible to work towards healing if we don’t allow ourselves to fully feel. The awareness of our emotion is essential to knowing how to properly handle it. Masking what we feel – for the pseudo benefit of ourselves or others – doesn’t prevent the feeling, it just postpones the improper management of it. Be free to allow yourself to be present in your pain, weakness, sadness, hurt and anger. The more we hide how we feel, the more those same feelings grow. Feeling is the 1st step to healing.
2. We need to R.ELATE
This one is going to get a little tight, and I share this with the upmost appreciation, honesty and respect: Sometimes, in moments, when people are going through they don’t always need a theological exegesis of how they should be responding. (Hello emotional intelligence!) Ok, so hear me out… I. LOVE. THE. LORD! I really, truly do. I love His word. It’s in my heart. It refreshes me. It lifts me. It is my true foundation. AND YET…There are times when relationship is truly needed over religion. When “I’m here for you… I feel your pain… I’ve been there… ” are necessary bridges to Romans 8:28. I truly believe this is the essence of salt and light and the true message of Jesus Christ, relating to people right where they are and loving them to The Truth of God’s Word.
3. We need to E.XPRESS
We can’t heal what we don’t reveal. Whether it is writing, talking, praying, dancing, therapy, mentorship or a combination of all 6 it is so vital to our healing to outwardly express what we feel. The relating aspect can help to facilitate expressing what we feel in a way that is productive to our healing.
4. Finally, we need to E.XCHANGE
Once we feel, relate and express then we position ourselves to make the exchange. Sometimes I believe we enter this step prematurely and exchange our feelings for things that make us worse off. However, I would submit to you that God is able to exchange our tears for joy and gratitude. If we are prayerful throughout our process and persist in His presence in the midst of our pain, He is faithful to truly give peace that surpasses my ability to put into words.
It’s ok to not be OK, but please be F.R.E.E.!
Most days at some point in the day I am NOT ok. Grief is so unpredictable; I can be having a good moment and a certain smell, place or thought will trigger a memory that sends me into an emotional wreck. My only strength is the Holy Spirit reminding me in those moments of what I know, and the only way back to being ok is to be FREE and allow Him to exchange my weakness for His strength!