How many times have you ever asked someone how they are and you get the, “I’m fine” response, even when you can tell that something is wrong? Have you ever given someone that same answer, covering up so as not to expose your weaknesses to people?
I know I have.
Our first instinct always seems to be to hide ourselves away, to not let anyone see our pain or failures or insecurities. Nowadays there are lots of posts, articles and programs geared toward making one’s self ‘better’ by disguising real life and heart problems through changing looks, diet, schedule, motivations, or by covering it up with makeup or surgery to hide the fact that not everything in life is always peachy. And we as humans tend to buy into the lie that if we don’t have it all together or if our lives aren’t perfect that we’re somehow inferior to others who (appear as though they) do. Some hide behind their money or a smiling picture on Facebook; others behind a mask of self-confidence or the classic “I’m fine” to their friends; while others hide behind bottles that drown their sorrows or behind closed doors where nothing and no one can get through. Even in our churches, we hide our weaknesses, for fear of being thought of as “less Christian” or “unholy” by our fellow believers.
Why is this?
Maybe it’s for fear of rejection or being misunderstood that we put masks on to hide our imperfections. Maybe it’s because we see ourselves as not being good enough for someone to actually care. Maybe it’s because of a rejection or betrayal in the past. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid to change or don’t know how. Maybe it’s because we see others around us who look like they’ve got it all together and we don’t want to be compared. Maybe we don’t want to be a burden on someone else. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of letting people in. Maybe it’s because we know if we start crying we may not be able to stop. Maybe it’s the fear that God couldn’t possibly love us anymore. Maybe it’s for a different reason.
While being real means opening up ourselves to more hurt or vulnerability, being open and honest gives us more ways to connect with other hurting souls. Pretending that life is all roses puts walls between us and others who are in the midst of the thorns. It prevents us from helping each other. It keeps us from being able to offer support or encouragement. It means carrying the weight of our owns burdens, rather than sharing (and lightening) the load.
So easily, we buy into the lie that tells us if we make ourselves vulnerable, people will lose respect for us. They will think things about us, or judge us unfairly, or reject us. We think that if we can control things that show on the exterior (our words, actions, appearance, etc.), then we will be able to control what’s going on in our minds, heart and thoughts. But no one can change themselves. Not for the better at least.
If you’re living your life for God – does it really matter what others think? So what if they see your tears? So what if they have their own opinions of you because you express a need for support? So what if you’re not perfect – and if people know it? Will the opinions of others change your decision to fully commit to trusting your Creator – even when you’re broken in the process?
And what if we go to church, or our jobs, or the mall and we pretend that we’re fine when people ask? What if we try to contain our tears behind the wall of a forced smile and don’t share the hard things we’re dealing with? Things like broken hearts, suicide, sickness and health issues, worries about our families, brokenness, loneliness, feelings of despair, worries about jobs or finances, the death of a loved one or even just having a bad day. What good does it do for us or the people around us to pretend that we’re “fine”?
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My life has changed drastically in the past month and a half. It started with the decision to surrender my life back to Jesus Christ. With that came a whole new outlook on my life and the way I was living it vs. the way I should be living. And so a chapter (one of my own selfish ruin) has closed, and a new chapter is being written in the story of my life.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17
But that doesn’t make life easy. Living for one’s own selfish ambitions only leads to heartache, brokenness and distance between you and God (and sometimes others).
One cannot go on doing the same things and expecting a different result.
So hard things have to be done. Changes have to be made. Repentance and forgiveness has to be sought after. And it can be really, really hard. Hard to give up the things which were once considered so important (by my own standards). Hard to die to self in order to become like Christ. Hard to forgive myself for wasted time.
I’m not going to go into the specifics of my life changes, as that matters so little in comparison to the hope for our lives that is made available to all through the Lord Almighty.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness though our knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises,
so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness;
and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;
and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective
and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,
forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
2 Peter 1:3-9
It is so reassuring to know that, through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for me, I have been forgiven, made new, and I am loved immensely by my Faithful Creator. And although it’s hard to even fathom sometimes, I can cling to the hope that my life is worth the living (every. single. day.) because He Lives, and He holds my future in his hands. He knows my hopes and my dreams, and He is working in my life today to prepare me for the future.
With all this being said, some days can still be plain ol’ hard.
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Sometimes it feels like we’re all alone in the fight to pursue holiness, or like we’re by ourselves in the middle of the trials of this life. One thing I realize the more I share the victories and struggles in my life – I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one who’s ever felt alone, or confused. Or had a broken heart or dreams that weren’t meant to be. I’m not the only one who’s ever struggled to find meaning in my life, or been broken by the hurtful actions of others. I’m not the only one who has said or done things that I regret. I’m not the only one who has gotten trapped in a web of lies and/or sin. I’m not alone in my daily walk with God. And we’re not meant to go it alone or close ourselves off from others.
In Acts chapter 2, the writer tells of how the “believers were together and had everything in common” (2:44). They sold their possessions, shared meals, praised God and worshiped together. They were the Church to each other. They didn’t keep to themselves and go on living their separate lives, hoping things would get better or that their problems would go away. And I’m pretty sure they didn’t always have meetings together that were happy and joyful every time. These were people who heard the Gospel message and had to repent for the forgiveness of their sins. They weren’t perfect people, and their lives didn’t automatically become perfect just because they decided to believe in Jesus. They still had to go through the process of changing their lives (just like the 12 disciples did when they followed Jesus). But they went through it together.
The letters that were written by Paul, Peter and John weren’t just written to individuals who were struggling on their own. They were written to the Church – the body of believers! In order that they could work through the things that kept them from being wholly devoted to following Jesus – together! That’s what the Church (all the believers) is for – for spurring each other on in our walks with God, for carrying each others burdens, for accountability and encouragement through the Word of God. No one is supposed to go through life pretending to be “ok”!
So my challenge for you (and for me) is to start being real. And not just when you’re by yourself, having alone time with God. Get involved in a small group (I did last week). Find an accountability or Bible study partner. Open up to someone you can trust who inquires about how you’re doing. You never know what opportunities will come up for you to share (or to be encouraged by another’s story). And you don’t know what you can do for someone else by being open. It might even save someone’s life.
If life has handed you lemons, don’t pretend that they’re strawberries
and try to convince everyone around you of that.
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled
so that you can pray.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.
2 Peter 4:7-11