The temptation when things get hard, according to research, is to isolate when we get worried, fearful or lose trust. As God has been doing a refining work in my life and there have been hard times, I found myself falling into this pattern.
One reason why we move in this direction is because we do not want to look weak or ungodly. Another is that sometimes when we speak up and are transparent about our hard times we get responses that do not encompass the love, care and compassion the Lord had for those experiencing difficult times in their lives.
Rather we get responses like I did after sharing the false allegations that were being leveled against me from a person in a position of power. I shared how these false allegations could have serious ramifications for my life and worse in the lives of my kids. The response in an email a week later asked if I was able to retake some ground and quoted Bible verses stating that in all circumstances we are to be filled with Joy.
These verses are very real and I have seen them to be the case in my life more often than not in the last year and a half. However, the email caused me to recoil because it was in affect telling me I was doing something wrong by sharing the challenges I was facing and that I simply needed to have more faith to not struggle with hard things.
The problem is an overly simplistic look at faith that ignores the full counsel of God. Even Jesus cried in the garden before his arrest. He too was being falsely charged by people in a position of power and knew there would be a dire outcome. God himself did not face every trial with peace and joy and yet he was still the sinless sacrifice for our sins.
As we face hard times we need safe people who embody not just the knowledge of God and His word but the love and compassion of Christ.
That email confirmed why I had not talked with anyone else related to what was going on for a couple of weeks. My mood and outlook had soured a great deal. Was I turning to God in prayer? Yes, a whole bunch. Was this alone lifting me out of the funk? No!
That was when God reminded me that when we are feeling lonely, we tend to adopt antisocial behaviors. I think this happens in part due to our fear of what people will think of us and in part due to responses from people who tell us we are doing something wrong when hitting a hard patch. Here is why I know that such responses are not of God.
In 1 John it says:
In Ecclesiastes 7:2-4
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is simply not wise or even healthy to expect everyone to live in a permanent state of joy and peace. Jesus did not, so how can we? When we place those expectations whether intentionally or unintentionally on others, it shuts them down. It makes them less likely to walk in the light with others and more likely to get stuck alone in a hard place. The same is true for our kids.
Can God meet all our needs? Yes. Does he always choose to do so Himself is a great question to ask ourselves. It is clear that we need each other in the Bible. We are part of a body called to love and serve one another. Marriage was ordained because it was not good for man to be alone. God uses others to meet our needs for love, care, compassion, counsel etc. as well.
This is why, when God reminded me I needed others, I reached out to Kerry and Diane, two safe people who listen and have compassion. They do not expect a constant state of joy from those around them. Neither sent me emails afterward instructing me on how to be joyful. They listened, understood and allowed me to share without judgement or correction.
When things get hard, do not hide and believe you need to do it all alone or with God alone. In between talking with Kerry and Diane, I shed a few tears like Jesus. After talking with Diane I was in a much better place and found the peace and joy of the Spirit returning to my life. I did not need to retake ground I needed to allow the full counsel of God to take place in my life. Stuffing our struggles and pain is never the answer.
In today’s Christian culture it is a risk to open up and share from our hearts about our true fears, doubts, and struggles. Yet in hard times we need each other. We may get hurt a few times before we find those safe people, but in such hard times we need to take the risk in order to find them. We also need to heed the warning in 2 Timothy to avoid people with the appearance of godliness but who have not yet embraced the true grace, love and compassion of the Lord for Timothy tells us they will bring ruin to our homes.