by Kelly Howland
I am convinced that the most frequent lie that we tell each other is when we answer one specific and common question. I daresay, there is a very good chance that at some point in your life, you have lied when answering this question too.
"How are you doing?"
It's a standard greeting in our culture and we all know a few variations of the socially acceptable answer we're expected to give. How often do we answer that question untruthfully?
I'll never forget the day I missed an opportunity to reach out and be vulnerable because I didn't think it was okay to NOT be okay.
We were attending a church and I was in a women's Sunday School class. At this time, my husband was still an active alcoholic—a high functioning one, so this reality was well hidden in public, but an alcoholic nonetheless with all of the pain and loneliness that comes from this devastating "family disease."
That weekend, the effects of alcohol had been continuing to hurt our family and break my heart. I attended church that morning utterly defeated and at a lowest of lows. I told a lot of lies in response to "How are you doing?" that morning. Then, the lesson leader really tried to set the tone of the next segment of our time together, saying she had hopes that this would be a time of genuine vulnerability and authenticity about where we're at in life—our hurts, our struggles, the areas we need grace and prayer. It was a time to pray for one another as we shared. She offered to lead to "break the ice."
I thought to myself: "My goodness. Maybe this is my chance to finally tell someone what's going on in my life and how much this hurts." And then my attention came back to hearing her talk about how her and her husband argued over picking out new cabinetry for their kitchen remodel and how it broke her heart that she and her husband had an argument and fought that week.
At that moment, I felt quite hollow as I thought, "Oh. THAT is the type of problems we discuss here. My problems don't actually 'fit' here." As I continued to listen to what was shared, I realized that the social boundaries of "acceptable" struggles to share were in place and when it came to something like alcohol abuse, THAT wasn't the kind of thing we talk about HERE. I slipped away to the restroom, locked myself in a stall, and cried.
That day, it felt like it was not okay to not be okay, and I needed to keep myself collected and put together for the sake of "fitting in" and not shocking anyone with the truth. But my friend, if you can identify with that feeling of feeling like you have to stuff it down, shove it into your emotional "junk drawer," and pretend like your pain isn't nearly as bad as you know deep down that it is.... let me encourage you with these words:
"The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all." Psalm 34:17-19
There are two little words tucked into these verses that change the game here regarding God's heart that bring his empathy and compassion for you to a deep, deep level.
These versus say that "the Lord is CLOSE to the broken hearted" and that He "DELIVERS them from all their troubles." Child of God, it doesn't matter where you are at in your life or how deep your pain reaches or where that pain comes from (even if it's by your own doing and your own hand), God promises that He is CLOSE to you in that pain and in that suffering. He comes down to exactly where you are in your devastation and in your defeat. He meets you there and comforts you in the midst of any circumstance you think is unutterable.
And then? He DELIVERS you. He doesn't just come down to your place of pain and broken heartedness, pay his sympathetic respects and float on by. No, he delivers you. That means he stays by you every step of the way. Through every valley, through every turn, over the course of the entire journey, he is your faithful traveling companion who will not leave you, forsake you, or abandon you. He makes sure you arrive on the other side.
It is OKAY to not be OKAY because God will meet you right where you are.
And dear church, may I extend this challenge to you. As ambassadors of Christ on this earth, let us also learn to be okay with other people being not okay and let us be willing to meet our brothers and sisters where ever they are. In Galatians 6:2, we are commanded, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
I guarantee you that there is someone in your life who is on the verge of breaking from the weight of carrying their burdens alone. It might even be the person you'd least expect. I challenge you—the next time someone asks you the question, "How are you doing?" to answer them with full honesty. It may very well throw them off guard with your truthfulness, especially if it deviates from the socially pre-programmed answers they expect.
Perhaps a pattern of genuine authenticity will open new doors to a community of believers who ask this basic question with genuine concern and a desire to really know the answer. With Galatians 6:2 in mind, of bearing one another's burdens, we as the Body of Christ have the potential to revolutionize the weight and worth of asking a basic question and turn it into a platform for meeting each other where we are at just as God promises to do with us. Bringing a new level of sincerity to "how are you doing?" may very well be the open door someone needs to begin their deliverance from their suffering and pain.
The truth God has given us is this: It's okay if we're honest about not being okay. He's not scared away by anything we could bring him and he can absolutely handle it. His invitation is open for you to cry out and release all of that burden to him. He'll come down to that abyss and meet you where you are. And then? He promises - he'll not only meet you there, but he'll also deliver you. How? Through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Now THAT is some real Good News.