Today I met with a friend. The first thing I asked was, “How are you?” He responded, “I’m Ok.” As we continued to talk, cracks began to show in the “I’m OK” veneer.
The fact was everything wasn’t OK: an accident, loss of job, a possible issue with his unborn child. As my friend shared these things I could see that he was coming undone. He began to assure me that things would be OK. Then the topic of conversation shifted to our friends. My friend commented, “It seems like everyone I talk to is dealing with major things in their lives; I guess it’s just that stage in life.”
I responded by saying, “The unfortunate thing is that our society doesn’t provide the framework or the language for us to make sense of, or help deal with, these experiences.” We are told to be happy, work hard, buy more and think positively and everything will work out in the end. Religious people have also bought into this language when they say, “God will not give you more than you can handle.”
This last one gets under my skin. For me, this is the “Oprah-fication” of the Faith. We present people with a “do good, God wants you to be happy, think positively and good things will happen” type of faith. This, when Jesus calls his followers to abandon everything and to take up their cross. This, when he calls them to follow him even to the point of death. Death! What more is there to handle?
“Happy” is not the only emotion that we are wired to have. Anger, fear and sadness, I believe, are also emotional blessings. My anger at injustice causes me to act. Fear helps me to assess and challenge my limits. Sadness allows for introspection and a reordering of one’s life and priorities. In my moments of sadness, a season I’ve been going through for the past couple of weeks, I have been able to look at life through a new set of lenses.
I’m beginning to value that which should be valued, like my relationships with my family and friends. My faith has deepened in this time where I’ve come to see the vulnerability and brokenness in my existence. I’ve also come to accept that others are just as vulnerable and as broken as I am. Yet in this I give thanks. Although we are all ‘dealing with major things’, moments where our vulnerability comes to the fore; like shattered glass our broken pieces can still reflect the light of God.
In my hurt I was able to have compassion, to suffer with my friend. I was able to offer prayer. In his brokenness he was also able to reflect light into my life with a hug. In addition to this, in those moments of darkness I personally find an overwhelming sense of God’s presence.
As I write I’m reminded of the first half of Psalm 23 which reads: The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. A good part of our lives are spent on the brim of the “darkest valley” and when life’s circumstances lead us to descend into the darkness, be assured, you are not alone. To my friend, and I hope you read this, I offer you this prayer:
I thank you for my friend. I know that you see all that he is going through at this moment. I pray that in this season, as it appears that he is walking in the darkest valley, that he may have an overwhelming sense of your presence. Comfort and sustain him. Calm his fears and anxiety. I also pray for his unborn child. May the baby be healthy as it is received into the hands of loving parents. I also ask that through their love, this child may come to know and have an understanding of your love and care. Lord, I ask that you bless my friend’s family and continue to surround him with people that love, care for and support him.