A few years ago, I went to a pastor retreat in Toledo, Ohio. I was most definitely NOT in a good place. I headed into this retreat winded, weary, disappointed. There’s just so much more that I’ve wanted God to do in my life, there’s been such difficulty, such hardship.
At this retreat, I had friend after friend after friend pull me aside and ask how I was doing. Apparently, the mask I was wearing that said, “I’m good” had fallen off without me noticing. One dear friend I had known for years had a look of deep compassion as he asked, “Are you o.k.? You just look like the wind has been knocked out of your sails.”
At this retreat, with maybe a hundred pastors and full-time missionaries, someone suggested to me that I take the opportunity to share where I was at WITH THE ENTIRE ROOM about some of my life disappointments and ministry hardships. What resulted was a... PRAYER-FEST! After I publicly shared, one of the retreat leaders suggested a few people gather around me and pray. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but there is something incredibly powerful about people not just praying FOR you, but OVER you. While this was going on, I decided to be entirely inappropriate and peek to see who all had come forward for this informal prayer-fest. It was about 2/3 of the room. It was a powerful moment. I felt loved. I felt like there was hope. I felt like I had friends.
Nothing had really changed EXCEPT I went public.
A few days later, I received an e-mail from an old friend who has really gone through it. There is a mental health condition in his family. I had no idea.
I had no idea how much confusion and pain and bitterness and disappointment he has battled. How many dreams of his had gone up in smoke. How many times he had felt lonely. Afraid. Angry at God. Angry at himself. Needing a friend. Needing a Prayer-Fest or even just one person to show they really do care.
The Christian “F” word is “Fine.” It’s a plastic, surfacy answer that we Christ followers sometimes give...when what we really need is to feel safe enough to shoot straight and let it fly. We weren’t meant to carry our pain alone.
War is hell. Life is war.
We all have friends who are going through it, whether or not we know it.
Let’s love each other well enough to never let ourselves or our friends get away with using “the F word.”
Look in their eyes. How are they really doing?
How are you really doing?