“The things we can never speak of.”
Every city or town has its own culture, its own value system, its own style of communication and mode of operation. This can also be said of the church.
The church has its own value system, its own style of communication (my old pastor used to call it “Christianese”) and mode of operation. As a young mom in the church, I quickly saw who received encouragement and love during trials and struggles and that would be those suffering from the “big problems.”
There are “big problems,” “medium-sized problems,” and “small problems.” Those with the small problems often share them during prayer requests with a giggle or a shake of the head. They know these are the problems common to all, and even though they may bite or sting, they are little enough that no real damage will be done whatever the outcome of these trials.
There are also the “big problems.” These are the situations that break everyone’s heart. The pain of the loss of a loved one, an unforeseen illness, the loss of home, a runaway child. There would be a call to fast and pray, meals sent, cards and notes of encouragement. Phone calls with uplifting words, love abounding. And that is as it should be. All good and pleasing to the Lord.
But I’d like to address those suffering from the “medium-sized problems.” These are the problems we cannot speak about. Some examples are: a past abortion, when your unmarried daughter is pregnant, you discover your son is addicted to drugs, your husband is habitually watching pornography, or someone in your family has a mental illness. These burdens are heavy and made heavier for the solitude in which we must bear them. For to disclose these problems might cause others to judge someone we dearly love. And so we bear these burdens in secret. One friend calls them “secret problems,” and she is right.
And so today, I am writing to those bearing the medium-sized problems.
First, may I remind you . . .
You are not alone. God knows. He grieves for you, He loves you, and He will bring you through it. It will most likely be a hard, painful, road, but you will get through it, because He will carry you if need be.
Also . . .
Your suffering is not unique. Your brothers and sisters in the Lord have these same problems, and have for all time. As Solomon once said:
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
They too are leery of sharing because they fear retribution and judgment from others. They too have immeasurable pain behind their smiles and are carrying on in isolation. Ask God to help open your spiritual eyes. See the pain behind the smile, reach out and draw these to you. Use words that encourage others to open up. Carefully chosen words of love. Show non-judgmental love, build a bridge of hope.
Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to hide anything. We are always instructed to use wisdom, but hiding is never encouraged for those suffering from a problem. Instead we are to shine light in the dark places. Pray over these dark and desperate issues. Seek wisdom from the Word, the only true Light.
I would also encourage those suffering to confide in your pastor, a counselor, or a friend who has proven to be trustworthy. To share with even one person can considerably lighten your load. The times I have stepped out in faith and shared a medium-sized problem with a friend have always resulted in a strong bond of friendship. These are the foundations of intimacy, baring our soul and carrying another’s burdens.
“Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:11)
Lastly, I’d like to speak to those who are chosen to hear this unmentionable problem. Guard your heart. You have been given a very high compliment to be chosen to carry a confidence. Be worthy of it. Please do not gossip, judge, or betray the confidence placed in you. These are the links that make friendships and churches strong. Encourage this dear one who is suffering.
I leave you with this: Jesus came to earth to have a relationship with you. Isolation is never the work of the Lord. Reach out, be brave, embrace one another.
You are a beautiful and necessary part of the body of Christ, medium sized problems and all.