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.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
You’ve asked for it! It’s here!
Now is your chance to share the Hope that Prevails. Check out the new shop with handmade, Hope Prevails branded necklaces, bracelets, bookmarks and stationery sets. Place your pre-order by November 20th in order for delivery by December 5th.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
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