The overcast sky looked daunting on the windy afternoon. I looked around the trailer at the group of parents and young children. We were at an interactive family farm with activities, food, and games. Some of the passengers on the trailer ride were loud and excited. Others seemed quiet and bored. Without saying a word to any of them, I knew they had experienced hardship. As an observant introvert, I couldn’t help but perceive the hurt in their eyes.
I saw it in the eyes of the 20-something single woman taking pictures on her smartphone. I saw it in the eyes of the young mom holding a curly-haired toddler. I saw it in the eyes of the older man, looking off into the distance.
The passengers on that tractor ride may have been noticeably hurting…but often the hurt in people’s lives isn’t so noticeable.
We all try to hide the hurt with happy smiles, outgoing personalities, and even bragging. But wearing a smile, saying “I’m fine,” and even being kind don’t mean someone has his or her life together.
In our sin-tainted world, no one is exempt from struggling. No one is exempt from brokenness. No one is exempt from pain.
We all have issues. We all have struggles. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
Truth be told, I will probably never hear about the physical abuse my cashier has endured, the loss of a child my bank teller experienced, or the suicide my waiter tried to commit. I don’t expect to hear about their issues. Discussing those issues with a stranger would be inappropriate and unusual.
But even with the people we know…with the people we trust…with the people we are supposed to be unified with…we try to hide. We are silent. We conveniently forget to mention that we are struggling.
How We Hide
Imagine this scenario: It’s Sunday morning, and you’re sitting in your usual church pew beside family members and friends. You sing with raised hands during worship, take notes during the sermon, and hold up your cup during communion. After church, you make your usual rounds to different church members. You ask Ms. Daniels about her toddling grandson, talk to Mr. Simpson about his new garden, and mention to the Jones family that you may be getting engaged next month.
After your rounds, you realize the elders are locking up the church. You rush out to your car, sigh deeply, and pull out a bottle of pills or a Snickers bar or your phone. Or perhaps you hurry home to watch the football game, cry alone in your room, open a bottle of wine, or stare at a computer screen. Whatever you do, you’re finally free from the act…the charade…the performance. You can finally escape from the role you play and be completely alone.
I’m guilty of playing this game, and you probably are, too. I’m often tempted to call my version of church real “fellowship,” but it’s not. Fellowship is deeper than conversations about the weather and new hobbies. It involves encouraging other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25).
When we interact with other Christians, we tend to talk about the weather, sports, or politics. We discuss the additions to our homes, promotions at work, or our kids’ accomplishments in school. We even gossip about the girl who broke up with her boyfriend, the man who can’t find a job, the boy who’s being bullied at school, or the grandmother who’s losing her eyesight.
But we don’t talk about our struggles—our eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, marriage troubles, financial issues, failing grades, conflicts at work, infertility, gluttony, porn addiction, spiritual doubts, poor health, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, loss of a loved one, school transition, etc. The list goes on forever.
Why We Hide
Obviously, the struggle is real.
Our struggles are real.
And our struggle to be real is real.
But why do we try so hard to hide our struggles by wearing fancy church clothes and faking cheery attitudes?
Because the truth is too raw, too uncomfortable, too embarrassing. The truth feels “un-holy” and “unrighteous.” What would Christians think about us if we told them _______? What if we told them we had committed this sin or felt this way about God or had experienced that trial?
Would they be shocked? Would they be unable to respond? Would they shun us?
That’s totally possible, but we must remember that we’re not defined by our shame and embarrassment. And, not only that, but there’s something the shocked, unable-to-respond, shunning Christians haven’t told you…
The Struggle (to Be Real) Is Real Part 2 should be live on Tizzie’s Tidbits in two weeks. Next week, look for a Halloween post that talks about the candy, costumes, and convictions related to this controversial holiday. Thanks for reading!