Day 4: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay // 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness
Hi there! This is day 4 of a series I’m writing this October called 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness. You can find the entire series here: 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness.
When I was in college, my family almost lost our home. We had had some financial issues and ended up owing back taxes totaling in the thousands. My (amazing) single mom was running a household on one income, and she is a teacher, so you can imagine that we did not have a lot of extra cash just sitting. We did not have a lot of family to lean on either, so we soon ran out of options and I found myself at church one morning fighting back tears and desperately trying to hide that my life was falling apart. In an example of the worst timing ever, my pastor decided to do something a little different that morning. As part of his sermon, he had us break into small groups and pray for one another. Great. Now how was I going to keep my walls up and my fake smile on?
I stayed quiet as the other people in our little circle asked for prayers for normal things – someone’s daughter was having trouble choosing a college and needed guidance, someone was pregnant and asking for prayer for a safe and peaceful delivery. Soon it was my turn. Despite my efforts to hold it together and keep up a nice, neat “everything is fine” front, everything came pouring out. I didn’t even know some of the people in this group. Yet here I was, words tumbling out with no sign of stopping. I told them about how we couldn’t afford the tax bill, about how I felt guilty for going to an expensive college while we were struggling, and how I had been praying for days about it and running on little sleep. I told them about how they were threatening to take our house, and we had no idea where else we would go. I told them about how hearing my mother, normally so strong and steady, cry when she thought I was out of earshot broke my heart. The words kept coming. They wouldn’t stop. There went my “everything is fine” mask.
But when I gathered my brave and looked up at the group, tearing my eyes away from the carpet where I’d been looking in shame, there was kindness and compassion in their eyes. No judgement. No one was uncomfortable that I’d shared something so personal and intense. We all prayed for each other and connected a little deeper that day, because we allowed each other into our weaknesses and needs. It is so incredibly hard to be vulnerable sometimes, and it never sounds like a fun idea before we do it. But afterward, we realize we wouldn’t trade the experience of safety and deeper connection for the whole world.
As it happened, Jesus had something else up His sleeve besides the simple blessing of connecting authentically with other believers and carrying one another’s burdens. After the prayers finished, a man I hadn’t met before that morning stopped me with his wife. They had been in my prayer circle. The man told me the oddest thing happened to him that morning: the Lord told him to bring something to church, and give it to someone. He would know who it was for. He said this as he pressed a stack of bills into my hand. I looked down to see the exact amount of money we owed in back taxes on our house. More than $2000. Now no words came out, as I tried to thank them. Only tears.
Now, there are a lot of other jams I have been in and no kind stranger showed up with a wad of cash, so I’m not saying that is the answer to everything, BUT:
If I had not allowed others to see that I was in need,
If I had succeeded in holding back my tears and keeping up my shaky smile,
If I had believed the lie that said I needed to fake being fine,
I would have missed a crazy blessing God had lovingly prepared for my family. I would have missed having others pray over my situation, and denied them the opportunity to help. I would have still believed the lie that I was alone and hopeless.
The truth? It’s okay to not be okay.
Please don’t hide like I did once. I know it feels like the right move when things get difficult. We don’t like to let others know we don’t have it all figured out. But you know what? None of us have it all figured out. Nobody has a handbook here. We are all just winging it and doing our best, figuring it out as we go along. And we need to admit this out loud sometimes to each other, because there is healing power in that. The second somebody admits they don’t have it all together, you can hear the rest of the room breathe easier. You can almost read everyone’s mind: Wow. If she can be honest about what she’s going through, maybe it’s okay for me to be honest.
And it is. It’s okay. You’re okay. Jesus still loves you and so do I, and so do other people I bet, and even if a magical stranger doesn’t show up with a few thousand dollars, you can make it through anything with a mighty God and a few good friends (and maybe some wine). In the meantime, though, it’s okay to not be okay. No pretending, not anymore. Okay? I’m in if you are.