I sit with a lump in my throat trying to select a package of graduation pictures for my high school senior. I decided weeks ago that most of these pictures were overposed and overpriced. Now, however, I look at these cap and gown pictures realizing that they may be the only graduation pictures of my son. Senior year is ending like a dystopian novel. Spreading virus. Illness and death. Social distancing. Canceled everything….perhaps including graduation. The precious “lasts” I’ve been anticipating this spring will likely not happen as anticipated. Yet, as I look around me, there are many people struggling in very profound ways: lost jobs, diminishing savings, separation from loved ones. I wrestle with shoving down my sadness. When dealing with hard things how should a Christian respond? If I’m trusting God, is it okay to feel sadness over these lost things? When other people are wrestling with such a harder load than me, is it selfish for me to grieve my seemingly lesser circumstances?
Often, I’m quick to invalidate my wrestlings and put on the “I’m okay” mask instead of admitting them and bringing these thoughts to God. Turning to God’s Word, I see that the Lord warns me not to lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) because on its own, my heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Yet, God made me a feeling person, and Jesus himself felt sadness and righteous anger. Unlike Jesus, however, my emotions can be fueled by sinful motives; therefore, I must bring my feelings to Him. God wants my honesty since He already knows how I feel and what I’m thinking. In Psalm 38, David relates. He tells God, “I groan because of the tumult of heart, O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.”
Like mold, unconfronted feelings fester in darkness. In addition to bringing my wrestlings to God, I have found so much comfort in sharing my struggles with friends and community group members. Satan wants me to believe that no one cares and no one understands. Having faith and humility to share the disappointments I’m facing brings them out of the darkness and into the light. In the Bridge Course, Jim Donohue explains that the way the enemy tries to capture a sheep is to separate it from the fold. Like the isolated sheep, when I am alone with my own feelings, I am vulnerable. Sharing my burdens with others positions me to receive much-needed encouragement, and as Hebrews 3:13 states, this will keep me from being “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Sharing and praying for one another allows God to deploy our spiritual gifts to strengthen others so that we can be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (Romans 1:11-12).
Is it wrong to grieve my seemingly lesser circumstances? Comparison can be dangerous, but it can also help in sensing our shared humanity as children of God. If I minimize my issues and shove down what is on my heart, I may miss an opportunity to receive encouragement or loving correction from others. Honesty is contagious. The spark of one person’s humility to share in a group can fuel others to do likewise. If I am quick to listen and slower to speak in these circumstances, God will help me to give and to receive.
I don’t know what I’ll do with 30 wallet-sized graduation pictures of my son, but I am thankful for the abundance of comfort God provides through His Word and the encouragement of others.