To the easily asked question, offered without much thought or anticipation of the response, “How are you?” One’s response could just as easily roll off the tongue, “I’m just fine…” And it often does.
But if you only knew the tsunami of circumstances, one after another, that has assaulted my family in recent months, you might be surprised.
Is it really okay to tell you when I’m not fine? Do you really want to know? Are you really prepared to pull up a seat, sit down, and listen quietly as Job’s three friends did for as long as it takes, and hear about the pain and heartache that has befallen us, and dry our tears?
Sadly, I know the truth that for some, it really isn’t okay to share when I’m not doing well. They can’t handle it. They don’t know how to respond. They can’t tolerate the discomfort it causes them to feel inside. They want to see life through rose colored glasses and anything darker than pink or yellow is too much to bear, so my response must always be on the sunny side up.
And yet, there are others. There are those who run deep and true. Those who not only want the truth, they demand it. They know that if the circumstances were reversed, my heart would beat in rhythm with theirs and my tears would cascade into a river meeting up with theirs. I would expect nothing less than the truth about their situation because prayer starts at the rock bottom and looks up to the hills from where our help comes from.
God has gifted me with a few warrior friends He urges to pray even during the night watch hours. Friends who sacrificially sat for hours in the surgical waiting room quietly alongside me waiting for my husband to come out of surgery. Friends who call in an order for pizza from half a country away or friends who ship a meal on dry ice to be delivered at dinner time during chemotherapy week when we are too weary to shop and cook. Friends who cheer our home with fresh flowers because the circumstances of our life can be dark and discouraging.
A couple of really astute friends have learned that when I’m “not fine,” I say less. I get quiet. I pull back. I withdraw.
Because I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to grumble and murmur. I don’t want to cause them to stumble.
I want to spend more time telling God about my concerns than telling others about it, and more time leaving the situation with Him than leading others astray in my despair.
God says, “Do everything without complaining and arguing” (Philippians 2:14).
When times are hard, I post less on social media. Social media is not the place to air my dirty laundry. I view my role on social media much like my role in my private practice: to encourage and uplift and inspire.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29).
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying it means that I only share when life is peaches and cream, or in my case sea salt caramel and chocolate. I believe in sharing the real and the raw, with authenticity and vulnerability, but lacking in complaint and self-pity which serves no one well. But when we share, there should be purpose in sharing.
I also believe that we, too, have a role to play as receivers of the message when others share. Scripture tells us in Romans 12:15, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”
One of the most helpful things we can do to support a friend, in good times and bad, is to join our prayers with theirs. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).
There is a time to offer words of solace or encouragement. Yet, sometimes, just as Job’s friends did initially, there is a time to just sit quietly and share in one’s pain, when words are not necessary and perhaps not even helpful. Allow a friend or loved one the latitude and grace to “not be fine.” It may be just what they need in that moment, and what you may need some time in the future.
How are you today? Whether fine or not, I really want to know in the comments below.
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I am finding much encouragement in your words! And, to answer your question…today, at 8:15 am, I am fine, for now! I pray that it continues throughout the day!
When I am “not fine”, I usually withdraw into myself; yet, I do find that I “air my dirty laundry” on Facebook. I know this isn’t where it needs to be aired! But, I do have those friends (and family – though I try not to share so much with family; part of the reason for not being fine is my husband who has dementia and is hard of hearing, and very rude and ugly and says very hurtful things to me. I do share with my daughters (one is ours; the other is from my first marriage; my son is also from first marriage but doesn’t live in our state)…but, I don’t always share the “particulars”. I really prefer not to do that; but need to “let go”…I have finally found a support group but missed their monthly meeting…so I’m waiting for next month.
Thank you for sharing your words; they are so helpful to me – and I’m sure many others!
Barbara, I’m glad that for a few moments at least, you were fine. I pray that continues, and that in the safety of your support group you can share when you are truly not fine. It is hard being a caregiver. Having a safe supportive group who understands is key.
I’m not fine. But with God’s help, I will be.
Yes, Pam, praise God, with HIS help and His hope, you will be. Praying you see more evidence of that every day.
I love the admonition to allow people NOT to be fine. A blessing as always, dear friend.
Karen, so grateful for you and the hope you, too, offer to others! Miss you!
I’m so glad you’ve found those friends that love you unconditionally! It’s hard to find those people who will bear your struggles with you. I went through a dark period and it was hard to find anyone who wouldn’t dismiss it or expand on how their troubles were worse.
What a huge blessing from God when we find those friends!
Julie, it is a rare gift when we find those trusted few who allow us to be real with them. Not everyone really wants to know the truth, and not everyone should be given the gift we give when we share our truth with them. But God is always there wanting us to share openly and honestly with Him!
It is a-ok to tell me when you aren’t fine. xo
Thank you friend. I’m grateful for true friends like you who are “safe.” they are few and far between! Love you!
I actually look for people in my circle who I know are struggling. Sometimes I don’t even have to look. They just pop up on my front door and need to talk. What a gift, blessing, and privilege from God to be able to love on people when they need it. Not tell them what to do, but listen, pray for them and encourage them…and let them know that it’s ok not to be ok. Life is hard, but even in the hard God is our constant joy. It’s a message so vital! I love your post! Thank you! Visiting from Thought Provoking Thursday.
Megs, what a blessing you are to others to love on them in the midst of the “not ok” times in life. Thank you for being there for them! May God bless you!
My youth pastor used to answer the question, “How are you?” with the question, “Do you really want to know?” Or “Do you have time to listen?” It really impacted the way I talk to others. If I don’t have time to listen, I usually say something like, “It’s good to see you!”
Heather, what a great way to differentiate when you truly have time to invest or not–it’s a very honest and real approach!!
I know what you mean about people not wanting to hear the truth. Once I tried to tell someone how i was really feeling and got the deer in the headlights look and I was quick to change, oh everything is good, I’m fine. Thanks for sharing.
Amanda, there’s nothing worse than being made to feel shame for sharing truth because you thought someone cared when they initiated the question. Hopefully we can be more honest in our care and concern when we ask, or not ask the question to begin with.
Thank you for this post. I am not always fine. Prayer helps. Thanks for sharing this one.
Barrie, we aren’t always ok, and that should be ok! God wants to know the honesty of our hearts, and hopefully we can extend others the same courtesy!
I remember as a child -our family had a year of nothing but one set back after another. Then in our marriage we had a time when everything went wrong. We finally determined we were under attack from the enemy. Each morning we joined hands and prayer a prayer of agreement that Satan would be bound and that God would bless our day. It didn’t take long and the cloud lifted. May you soon have the light of his shining face make brilliant all things around you. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.
Hazel, thank you for that blessing! We receive that with joy and gratitude!
I’ve never been too quick to share the hurts and pain I am enduring but I am always the one to encourage and lift up others. Very few people do I share openly with when the troubles and storms come. I know their heart so I know I can share with them and they will love me and join me in prayer, put their arms around me and hold me. This message helps me see the blessing of sharing our pain with others for they will see that I am not in a utopia of peace where nothing happens but I live real life just like they do with its ugliness and discomfort. Thank you, Michelle, for being open, honest, real, vulnerable and accepting of love and encouragement. I do desire to bless and encourage you in your #SacredJourney and your real life needs. I love and appreciate you so much!! Praying always!!