I recently met up with a new friend for coffee and cookies. We sat in the shade and tried not to melt in the humidity while we shared our hearts and talked about our Hard. Our specifics are vastly different, but our hearts spoke the same language as we spoke about our current realities.
At one point, I asked her if she had been honest with her people about her Hard. I asked if her home team knew how painful and lonely this season was.
She said yes, but also no.
She said that they know the Hard but she also doesn’t share it all the time because she doesn’t want to be depressing or a downer. She doesn’t want to complain and keep talking about it. She said she doesn’t keep sharing it because nothing changes. There are no updates. It is just still hard. She is still lonely. It is still painful. And it isn’t changing.
As she said it, my heart sighed, “me too.” I’m tired of my Hard still being Hard. I’m weary of the famine that is still happening. It feels depressing to keep talking about something that doesn’t feel like it’s changing. I’m exhausted from a Hard season that isn’t over in a few weeks or months. I’m still holding onto my plank in the shipwreck and I don’t see land, still.
When it was time to say good-bye she apologized. She said she was sorry for being depressing, while thanking me for listening. She said she was sorry for being such a downer.
But here’s the thing.
I am not sorry.
I’m not sorry she shared her heart. I’m not sorry she told me what was Hard. I’m not sorry she spoke about what mattered to her.
What she heard were her own doubts and fear. What she heard were her own loud feelings. What she heard was the same old Hard. What she heard was the voice of a bully telling her she is too much.
But that’s not what I heard.
What I heard was someone who is brave to still show up to her own life.
I heard someone who hasn’t given up on Jesus even though she’s frustrated and doubting.
I heard someone who is fighting for what’s good still, even though her Hard season is lasting for YEARS.
I heard someone share what is REAL about what it is to be human, instead of some fakery or show.
I heard someone who is loving her people well, even in the midst of her own pain.
I heard someone who encouraged my heart by being honest about what suffering looks like.
I heard someone who also faces hot mess days and is still trying hard to be present.
Here’s the thing. That morning, I really didn’t want to go and meet this new friend. I felt all sorts of hot mess, in the throes of all kinds of FEELS. I felt like I had nothing to offer another human being. I had pictured showing up to chat a little more put together, with a little bit of something in my reserves. But instead I felt empty, empty, empty. I was hurting and tired from my own Hard.
But the beautiful thing was that as I sipped my coffee and tears came and we took turns talking and listening, was that I didn’t need to have something to offer. This friend didn’t need another person who was put together and doing well. The timing of this meet-up felt ill-placed prior to my showing up, until I got there and realized that she needed someone to say “me too” just as much as I did.
I know the temptation is to stop talking about it. It is painful and vulnerable and we don’t want to be complainers.
But the truth is that it still hurts that this person died.
It still hurts that the Lord hasn’t answered this prayer.
It still hurts to be alone on holidays.
It still hurts to waiting.
It still hurts to be desiring a good thing and not getting it.
It still hurts to be in a Hard season.
And the voice of the bully says, “Buck up. Shame on you for not being grateful and still whining about that. Be thankful. Read your Bible.* Pray and make yourself feel better.”
*Please note that I’m not saying to NOT read your Bible. I STRONGLY believe in the power of Scripture. But sometimes the enemy twists truth and guilts us about things that are good, turning them into more performance and pressure. I’ve had plenty of times where I felt guilt and shame about how I was “supposed” to be experiencing Scripture or prayer or the Lord’s presence, instead of permission to be in pain and in the valley.
But the voice of Jesus isn’t laced with guilt and shame and meanness. The voice of Jesus is kind, even in rebukes. The voice of Jesus is always, always for us. The voice of Jesus doesn’t pit us against each other and compare our shortcomings to the strengths of another.
And he doesn’t tire of our pain, even when we do. He doesn’t tire of our questions or doubts or frustration or confusion. He offers to share our burden. He offers to be with us in the midst of it. He offers to catch our tears and even keeps them in a special place. He offers to pray for us when we don’t know what to pray for anymore. He offers us grace that is custom-fit for the story he’s given us.
I’m preaching this truth to my own hurting heart today, just as I said it to my friend in response to her apology for “being depressing.”
I don’t hear depressing.
I hear pain and suffering.
I hear courage.
I hear a desire to follow Jesus.
I hear faith in the midst of doubts and frustration.
And those are exactly what we should be talking about.
I love what Shauna Niequist says, “What I’m learning in this season: the way through is TOGETHER. Whatever’s hard/scary/broken, gather up your people–it changes everything.”
Let’s keep showing up.
Let’s keep telling each other about the Hard.
Let’s keep being honest and real and kind.
Let’s keep taking each other to Jesus, even when we’re limping there ourselves.
Let’s keep speaking truth to the bullies in our head and each others’ heads.
Let’s stop apologizing for being depressing.
Let’s keep being brave.
And let’s keep telling each other, “me too.”