“There is nothing wrong with you. You are simply exhausted and overwhelmed. You have carried a child nine months, you haven’t slept enough, not only since he was born, but for awhile before that because you were so uncomfortable. You haven’t sat down except to feed him. Yes, you love him with a ferocity you have never felt before, but he is one demanding little creature, and you will wonder, ‘What in the world was I thinking?’ which only adds to the guilt you feel. If you don’t suddenly burst into tears a few times, you aren’t normal, and it doesn’t mean you are a bad mother. In fact, it probably means just the opposite.”
I told her all that because I wished someone had told me when I sat down and burst into tears one afternoon long ago. We do our brothers and sisters no favors by pretending that life is one big fairy tale. Instead, we seem to bottle up our own emotions and deny they ever existed, while telling them to “Shape up!”
God put us here to help one another, and it is no help at all to act like we never had these problems. Babies do not lie down and go to sleep when you need them to. One word “fitly spoken” will not unravel a tangled conflict. Sometimes spouses are inconsiderate and unkind and have no interest in talking about the problem and fixing it. We have lived too long with sitcoms that solve all difficulties in less than thirty minutes and Lifetime movies that depict one intervention mending a twenty year rift in a relationship. In real life it doesn’t happen that way.
We once spent an hour with a man who thought himself “the dream husband,” trying to get him to see that his actions were nothing more than abusive control. The hour ended with him in tears, determined to be better. The next morning he was again blaming his wife for her lack of gratitude for all his “care.” That is real life. Problems that took years to develop will not disappear in a minute, or an hour, or even a week.
Our children learn nothing when we hide our disagreements. Keith’s parents once said, “We never argue.” When he was finally old enough to figure things out, he answered, “That’s because you both clammed up and walked away, not because you never got mad at each other.” Children need to see how to resolve conflicts in a godly manner, or even how to apologize when the manner was less than godly.
When a young person struggles with sin and we tell him he never truly repented, when someone who is seriously ill becomes depressed and we say, “Where’s your faith?” when another is beset by tragedy and in her grief asks, “Why?” and all we can do is scold, we have failed them. A brother is born for adversity, Prov 17:17. When I do not comfort my brother in that adversity, when I am too proud to share the wisdom that has come from mistakes I have made, I have not fulfilled my purpose for being.
It’s time we older Christians stopped endorsing fairy tales. It’s time we told it like it is. Life can be hard and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are at fault. Even when you are at fault, it doesn’t mean you are worse than anyone else, no matter what image others try to present. Older Christians must realistically prepare the younger for life, and comfort them during their trials. Job said that when we do not comfort those who need it our very relationship with God is in peril, 6:14,15.
God told Ezekiel, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel… and say to them…The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought…therefore you shepherds hear the word of the Lord…I am against the shepherds and I will require my sheep at their hands…Ezek 34:2,4,7,10. He feels the same way about older Christians who present unrealistic expectations to the younger and then do not comfort and console when difficulties arise.
I must stop pretending I am completely put together so I can help those whose lives are falling apart.