Do We Say We’re Fine When We’re Not?

“I say, ‘I’m fine, yeah, I’m fine,
oh, I’m fine, hey, I’m fine’

But I’m not, I’m broken”
(“Truth Be Told” by Matthew West)

When someone asks you how you are, do you say you’re fine when you’re not? I do. It just pops out like an auto response.

Do you ever wonder why we do that?

After hearing a song by Matthew West, I’ve been trying to dig deeper within myself.

As a pastor’s son, Matthew West grew up feeling he needed to put on an outward appearance that he’s fine. Even when he felt broken inside. Even when things felt out of control.

He learned there were two lies in his life:

  1. We’re supposed to have it all together, so we should put on a smile.
  2. Everybody’s life is perfect except ours, so we should keep our messes, wounds, and secrets safe within us behind closed doors.

As I examine my own heart, I know I often hide behind a smile. Even though I’m aching inside. I’m so tired of following what was deeply rooted in me as a child from church and home that I should keep messes, wounds, and secrets buried in my heart.

Probably the biggest reason I often feel silenced is fear of being judged, rejected, and slandered again. When I told the truth about a minister who abused me, I was not believed in the church and many people heaped me with guilt and shame. When I told who I thought would be lifetime friends the truth, they rejected my truth and abandoned me. Bible verses have been taken out of context and flung at me to tell me how sinful I am.

Another big reason is that I feel my truth doesn’t matter, because I don’t matter. In the church we grew up in, children were not valued as Jesus values them. And because of some abuse at home, too, I felt like I didn’t matter and I was never good enough. God has helped me to learn this is a lie, but it still rears up at unexpected moments when I’m feeling vulnerable.

In his song, Matthew voices that some churches are lacking in welcoming and supporting the hurting. There may be signs to come as we are, but if we lived like that was true, the pews would be crowded.

Jesus wants churches to be places of refuge and safety, not places where we hide our messes and wounds out of fear of judgment and rejection. Not places where hurting people’s burdens are made heavier with shame and guilt.

“Stoop down and reach out
to those who are oppressed.
Share their burdens,
and so complete Christ’s law.”
Galatians 6:2 MSG

Not only in churches, but in various social circles, we’re often afraid to let our truth be told. What will people think? Will they judge me? Will I be hurt again?

The reality is not everyone wants to hear our messes or wounds. Not everyone will care or understand. Not everyone will believe or support us. But that doesn’t make our stories any less true or important.

It has often been my comfort over the years that there is One who already knows the deepest secrets, messes, and wounds of our hearts. He is a faithful Friend, a compassionate Savior, and a caring Supporter who will always understand. There is no failure, no fall, no sin, no deep wound that will ever turn Him away or keep Him from loving us.

“But everyone my Father has given to Me,
they will come. And all who come to Me,
I will embrace and will never turn them away.”
John 6:37 TPT

Are you feeling broken, but don’t dare to share your story? When we leave it behind closed doors, it subconsciously festers and harms ourselves and others. It may not be easy, especially when we meet with resistance and rejection, but through Christ and His strength, we can learn to take the risk anyway. And even if our stories aren’t received by all, there just may be someone who needs to hear it and will feel less alone and more understood.

Truth Be Told
by Matthew West

When It’s Hard to Let Go and Trust God to Catch Us

Courtesy of Jeanne Takenaka

Heavy emotions can feel like an undercurrent tugging us down into discouragement and depression, can’t they? We can keep trying to desperately cling to our only HOPE. But sometimes… Lord, I can’t hang on anymore…

I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with sadness over all the sorrow and suffering in the world, and this Covid pandemic has my emotions all over the map. But I often trap them inside. I feel compelled to show others I am strong enough to handle them on my own. Including God… I allow burdens, that of others and of myself, to weigh me down too much instead of truly surrendering them over to God who alone has the power to rescue, redeem, and restore.

I even fight against the way God chooses to redeem and revive. I forget not a tear is wasted. I forget that our hearts are transformed the most through suffering. I forget God has the power to paint beauty out of ashes.

Before this Covid crisis hit us, I downloaded a free devotional book about Finding God’s Presence in Everyday Living. When Jeanne Takenaka wrote it, she had no idea how fitting it would be for such a time as this.

One morning my heart nudged me to get back to reading it. The first words I read expressed my feelings:

“Have you ever felt like life was overwhelming you? Like thing after thing was piling on you, stealing your strength and leaving you gasping?” (Jeanne Takenaka)

Oh yes, that is how I feel, Lord! Please help us!

Then towards the end of the devotion:

“When the ground beneath us shifts, God’s mercy upholds us. He is always with us, in every season. 
 
We can find reassurance knowing our Father’s got us. He’s holding our hands and sharing His consolations with us when we need them most.” (Jeanne Takenaka)

Yes, Lord, I want to believe
Your mercy will hold us up!
I believe, please help my unbelief!

The ground beneath us has shifted drastically throughout this entire world. We may feel like we’re free falling into a deep, dark hole. Simple everyday things we thought we had control of have been taken out of our hands.

But God…

God’s got us, and His mercy will uphold us, no matter what we’re going through. So why am I still afraid?

You know how a well-adjusted child jumps into the arms of a loving father? Trusting with all his heart that Daddy will catch him?

When our trust has been so broken in life, even when we have come far on the journey of healing, fear can suddenly pop up. Lack of control over our lives may trigger fear of trusting others, even our Heavenly Father. Even when He invites us, “Come, My child. Jump into My arms. I’ll catch you and I’ll hold you closely in My loving arms. I won’t harm you. I’ll fight for you. So trust Me, My child! I’ve got this! Trust My way and My timing. Relax, let go of your grip on control, and surrender your heart and life to Me. Let yourself fall into My arms!” 

Desperately, we keep holding onto some form of control. Is He really safe? Will He truly catch us? Will He hold us and get us through this?

God has promised He will!

“The eternal God is your refuge and dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
He drove out the enemy from before you,
And said, ‘Destroy!’”
Deuteronomy33:27 AMP

And you know what? God doesn’t condemn us when we slip and find ourselves not trusting Him again. He understands that struggling journey far better than any person in the world does. He accepts us just as we are in all our humanness. He understands how our emotions can take us all over the map. But He never gives up on us, even when we give up on Him. He holds His arms open wide and keeps coaxing us to let go and fall into His arms of mercy and unfailing love that He has promised will support us!

“Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.”
Psalm 94:17-18

Just Be Held
by Casting Crowns
“Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held…”

Remembering How My Mom Loved In Spite of Depression

“I love you! I love you! I love you!” she whispered some of her last words as she fought for breath. I still see her helplessness as a spinal stroke paralyzed her and took away her freedom to hug us. She loved to hug us.

My mom was plagued with depression through her life (My Mom, Depression, and Love), so my child heart had to work through insecurities. All the turmoil of wondering what I did wrong that I couldn’t make her happier. That I couldn’t stop her hysterical crying. That I couldn’t stop her from wanting to end her life. I didn’t understand why she had to leave to go to the hospital. When she clung to us after our Sunday visits and sobbed and begged my dad to take her home, I didn’t understand why we couldn’t take her along.

It took years before I worked through my guilt and feelings of desertion. But the more I healed, the more I realized what a wonderful mom I really had. Although depression sometimes snatched her away from us or plunged her into inescapable self-absorption, she loved us deeply. Now I am amazed how she even coped, knowing more of her past and all she dealt with. Now I can see how God still taught me about the real love through her.

Today it is 14 years since she passed away. February 18, 2006. She was only 80. I still have times when I miss her.

I am so grateful for my Mom’s love. Though not exhaustive, here are a few ways she showed it:

I often had ear infections. I remember being not very old and crying because my ear hurt horribly. My mom took me to the doctor. I still hear his words, “SHUT UP!” That only made me cry harder, and my mom hurt so much for me that we changed doctors.

She believed me when others didn’t. When I was a sophomore in high school, I ached all over and would run a small grade fever. I was so, so tired. Even our family doctor couldn’t figure it out. I started believing others that maybe it was just the result of emotional issues or of something I was avoiding at school. When I sobbed because someone called me a faker, she hugged me and said, “I believe you.” Later on, my feet and hands swelled up and I was sent to a specialist. Finally a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. It was a long journey through treatment, but she stood by me all the way.

When I was a junior in high school, I had a tonsillectomy. They were more spread than they had thought, so they had to dig and stitch. I couldn’t eat for some time, and I remember feeling Mom’s concern and bringing me popsicles.

♥ She never squelched my creativity and passions but instead encouraged them. When I found some baby frogs, she gave me an old canning tub to build a habitat for them before I released them. She allowed me to make terrariums. I enjoyed keeping an aquarium, raising hamsters, and nursing a duckling back to strength in a box in the corner of the kitchen.

She couldn’t protect us from abuse, and she was emotionally incapable of recognizing it or helping us through the effects of it. But she did care about our safety as much as she was able. Once my brother and I wanted to swim in a pond under a bridge, and she allowed us to but she said, “Keep your shoes on” as she was afraid we might step on broken glass or barbed wire. (I already mentioned before of an incident where she was more concerned about our safety than hers in “My Mom, Depression, and Love.”)

When she was present, she allowed us to pick which cake we wanted for our birthdays. I always chose confetti angel food cake. On my birthday last month, I thought of how she always sent a special birthday card even though her handwriting had become more wavy.

Her children and grandchildren were her pride and joy. She loved it so when we were all together.

Even though my kids were adopted, she never loved them less than the other grandchildren. Once when she was in the hospital, my husband and I went to see her. We didn’t know if children were allowed in her room, so we left them in the lobby. She immediately asked us where the kids were. When we told her, she pleaded that we bring them to her room and said they are just as important to her as the other grandchildren.

I was already working on another post, but my heart led me instead to remember my mom’s love. I’m so grateful she can now dance and rejoice fully in Jesus’ love where there is no more depression.

I love you! I love you! I love you, Mom!

Please share your story about your mom. If she is no longer on this earth, how did she show you she cared in spite of her imperfections? Or perhaps you have no positive memories of your mom, because she was absent or abusive in one way or another? Is there someone in your life that gave you the nurturing love like a mom should?

“Amazing Grace”

This was one of my mom’s favorite hymns. We sang it at her funeral.
Her name was Grace, and by God’s grace, she was amazing, too!