Life is Hard But I am Well
"How are you?" is a simple question that I hate. Within seconds of being asked, I have to decide whether I am going to be honest. And if I try to tell the truth, I then have to decide how much of the truth I want to tell you, especially since I know you probably weren't looking to hear about postpartum anxiety or the way I lost my temper with my three year old or about the awkwardness of changing churches without moving. You were really just saying hello.
But I can't lie. There's something sad about telling someone you're "good" when you know you're losing your grip on life. You just feel more unknown. So my answer is "okay" or "not so great" or "I'm here" accompanied by a long sigh. These statements are open doors that could lead to more conversation or a follow up call later or as simple encouragement for others to be honest about their days as well.
As Christians, if we only have bad reports to share with others, are we really being that honest? Yes, ours days are often long and hard. But are they never good? Are they only good when the weather's perfect and we're getting our way?
I think of my children when I tell them they can watch their favorite cartoon or that we're going to the playground or to their cousin's house.
"Yes, that makes so happy!" they scream. They're suddenly eager to obey whatever I tell them because they are getting what they want.
When we ask one another "How are you?" are we really just asking, "Is everything going your way today?" or "How are you doing in a world where everything is not going to go the way you'd prefer?"
Well, it all depends on my faith.
Do I believe God is good and that his will is better than mine?
There's never been a season where I wasn't being stretched or challenged in some way. And as a Christian, the Lord is always at work, shaping me into his image, which means I often experience growing pains. In other words, I often do not get my way. If I only answer this question in light of those pains, my answers will always be negative. But if I zoom out a bit and consider how my story fits into what God is doing in, through, and for Christ, my answer is quite different. Suddenly my answer isn't based merely on how I feel but also encapsulates what God is doing and how I fare in him.
Consider David's words in Psalm 145:10-12:
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Does my response to this question reflect any gratitude to God? Does it embody an awareness of God's mighty work in my life and on my behalf?
I suspect I often sound like God has distanced himself from me, like the gospel has no bearing on my life anymore, like I've been forsaken. But that's not true at all. And so I'm convicted that as transparent and vulnerable as I've tried to be in the past, I've not been truly honest with folks.
Yes, mothering three small children is hard. Yes, postpartum anxiety makes that even more challenging. Yes, changing churches without moving is awkward and painful, confusing and incredibly bittersweet. But I'm well. God has been so faithful to me. He's been growing me. I know him better than I did six months ago. When I was at my lowest a couple months ago, I still believed Christ. He still met me in his word. I still met with his people. And that was all him. Not me. And for that reason alone, I'm well. I can't complain. I know God is at work and that's enough for me.
Maybe I won't get all those words out when the next person asks,but I want to convey that I'm well despite my circumstances. My worst days are full of doubt. When I am tempted to believe God does not exist, is not good, or does not love me, then I'll answer negatively and just tell you like it is. "I'm not doing so well today."
"Oh, why not?" someone might ask.
"I'm struggling to believe Jesus."
And I pray friends like you would point me to him, allowing me to be honest about my experience of life while also reminding me of his word, and his very real activity in my life.
This blog post is part of my 2020 first draft series.