I spent the first 3 days of 2013 near-paralytic in bed sick. Somewhere in there I got dumped. A stranger hit my car, then said it was my fault so that her insurance didn't have to repair my car. My darling mother appears to be falling apart at the seams and is currently averaging about one major health scare a month. I just moved out of my flat under some not-so-ideal circumstances. And amongst all of this, I can't help thinking 'hold on a minute, this is NOT the fresh start I ordered!'
It frustrates me because I feel like I've only just been here. I keep waiting for everything to click into place, but every time I wade through a pile of mess the world comes along and drops another load. Yes, I know, it's LIFE. It just makes my want to punch my own face a little bit.
The thing I don't understand is why we are all so afraid to admit it? We are more than happy to have a whine and moan about the little things, but when it comes to the big life-changing stuff we think that being honest about the hurt and the fear means we are a terrible Christian. Because how could anything be bad when we have Jesus?
Instead of being real we minimise our true feelings and cover it with a bunch of Christian clichÃ©s. If someone asks how you are, the correct answer is: 'I'm great, Jesus loves me, He has a plan for me, His timing is perfect, He knows how I feel' even though the real answer might be: 'I'm devastated, everything hurts, I can't see a way out.'
When I first went to university I had what I now refer to as 'two years off.' Coming back into church I felt so ashamed of my brokenness because I couldn't find anyone to relate to. No matter what was happening in the lives of those around me, they never seemed to actually feel their hurt because it was always eclipsed by this magical thing called 'God's love.' So I buried my pain and told myself that God would make it all better. Then one day at church we were given a journal and I found myself writing this:
'I am tired. I'm sick of being in pain and trying to justify it by saying at least I learnt something. Sometimes the hurt can't be rationalised away. Sometimes it just hurts.'
I thought I was doing well, but in my denial I had simply preserved my pain under a protective layer of fake smiles and busyness. When the layers got peeled off the hurt that I had hidden was just as real as when it first happened. I was devastated and I couldn't see the bigger picture because all I could see was disappointment and heartbreak. I thought it meant I didn't trust God enough. I thought it meant I was less of a Christian. Imagine my surprise when I realised it just meant I'm actually human.
We've all been there, yet we only feel safe to admit something is wrong after we've actually got through it. We only share stories of pain and suffering if they have a happy ending. We will only admit to the hurt and disappointment if there is a 'but'. 'But God can use this experience for my betterment'. 'But God is good'. 'But God has a plan for me'. There is huge truth in all of those statements. In hindsight I can see how real those statements have been in my life. But only in hindsight. At the time I was so weighed down by darkness that I couldn't even imagine the light.
I guess what I'm trying to say, in a rather glass-half-empty kind of way, is why are we so afraid to be real? And why can't we let those around us be real too? I'm not quite sure when 'coping' morphed into 'not having any bad feelings at all.' We hide behind our 'God is good' culture and awkwardly dance around the fact that real, unexplainable, unjustifiable suffering exists. Everywhere. Every day.
I'm not talking about dramatic news stories, or that awful thing that happened to Johnny's uncle's colleague's sister's son. Somehow it's easier to talk about suffering when it's happening to others and it's out of reach. But I am talking about YOU. What is happening in YOUR life?
What's hope got to do with it?
I love hope. I believe in hope. Hope reminds me that the crap I feel right now isn't my future. Hope encourages me to face my problems. Hope promises me that, whether it be in this life or the next, it will get better.
Hope doesn't take away the pain of today. Hope isn't the cure. Telling someone that 'it will get better' doesn't mean it is automatically better now. It just means there's something to work towards. There is something to fight for.
Hope is what makes me not give up.
My challenge to you is be real. Feel what you are feeling. Own your brokenness. Experience the freedom of being honest about the fact that sometimes LIFE SUCKS! It's OK to feel overwhelmed, it's OK to feel hurt, it's OK if you don't see the light right now.
Just don't give up.
Casey Murray works in marketing for a company that sells nail guns, where she eats large amounts of chocolate and wears pretty dresses in an attempt to avoid becoming 'one of the boys.' In her spare time she likes having inappropriate conversations with friends and writes to try and make sense of it all.
Casey Murray's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/casey-murray.html