“Should I be honest?” I wondered. “What if I start crying? What if she doesn’t really have time to listen? What if she is just asking to be nice? I could keep it simple and tell her I’m fine.”
There I was, standing in the lobby at church waiting for my husband, when an old friend walked up and asked how I was doing. Our then three-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with a severe speech disorder a few weeks earlier, and I was not “fine.”
I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I was afraid my little girl may never be able to talk.
Yet I felt like I shouldn’t be any of those things. I should have more faith, more stamina, more strength and courage to navigate the unknown path of special needs parenting.
Sometimes it’s hard to let people know how we’re really doing because we don’t want to be high maintenance, right? We don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us. Or we fear that if we’re honest, someone might perceive our struggle as a lack of faith.
Other times we don’t let people know how we’re really doing because we assume they’re only asking to be nice and don’t really have time to listen. And what if we’re honest but it gets awkward because they don’t know what to say?
Sometimes someone sincerely wants to know and we just don’t want to tell them. That is the place where things get tricky for me. I will tell people I’m fine even when I’m not, because I want to be.
I don’t want to be weak and broken. I want to be okay. I want to feel strong, resilient, and courageous.
And that is where I stood that day in the lobby at church. Everything in me wanted to keep my guard up, keep my heart sealed off and my lips sealed tight. But I was tired of hiding and pretending. So I took a risk and let my heart, my words, and my tears spill. I shared the hard parts of Aster’s countless assessments, unexpected diagnosis, and the heartache of not knowing her future.
Although Kelly probably had places to go, she stayed with me and listened. She grabbed some tissue when the tears started down my cheeks, and asked if there was anything she could do to help.
When I wanted to be strong, God showed me the powerful gift of being weak.
Paul describes what happens when God allows struggles that make us feel weak. And what God does in our weakness when we’re willing to rely on Christ. How God’s power comes and rests on us.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
Paul had been struggling and asking God to take away the pain. But somehow he realized and accepted that God allowed the hardship to continue to protect him from pride and the danger of becoming self-sufficient.
We don’t need to keep pretending we’re fine.
What we need, to have and to be, is a friend who says “you don’t have to be strong all the time.” A friend who gives us permission to be weak and remind us of the truth we so easily forget: God’s power shows up in our weakness when we’re willing to be real about our struggles and our need for His strength.
Before we went our separate ways, Kelly asked if she could pray for me, right there in the lobby at church. Afterwards she thanked me for telling her what was really going on, and told me that knowing I didn’t have life all figured out made her feel normal.
God is able to work His grace and His strength in our weakness. When we’re willing to be weak, He gets to be strong for us. When we’re willing to be real, others get to see, pray for and get to know the “real” us and the real God we so desperately need and love.
Connection Question: When someone asks how you are doing, or how they can pray for you, is it hard to be real with them about struggles you’re facing? How can you be un-fine with someone today?
Connection Challenge: Ask a friend how you can pray for her—no “fine” allowed!
This post is a partial excerpt from Renee’s chapter in Craving Connection, a new book from (in)courage with 30 stories & challenges for real-life engagement. To find out more about the book, click here.