The challenge for us is to not hide these things and act as if they don't exist when they do.
Hiding is easy;
honesty is hard.
It's easier to pretend that everything's okay than it is to open up, be truthful, and let people know what's going on and how you really feel about it. When we hurt, our natural reaction is to hide it.
We shut other people out.
We close in on ourselves.
We push people away.
In this video, a researcher named Brene Brown shares some ideas about what makes it so hard to admit when we're hurting and struggling:
Many years ago, it was observed, "Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear . . . It is easier to say 'My tooth is aching' than to say 'My heart is broken'" (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, appendix by R. Havard, M.D.).
That's still true. If someone shows up with a cast on their arm, everyone wants to hear the story about what happened. But if someone says, "I'm feeling down and can't seem to turn it around," everyone says, "Suck it up." But hiding your pain isn't healthy, nor does it make the pain go away.
What if our response to trouble and trials wasn't denying it or hiding it?
What if our response was joy?
That would be weird.
But that's how we're encouraged to respond in the book of James:
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow" (James 1:2-3 NLT).
Do you see that? Troubles are an opportunity for joy.
How can that be? Because when you face troubles, when you experience trials, when your "faith is tested," you have an opportunity, a chance, to grow in your endurance. Trials offer the chance to develop a more enduring commitment to Christ.
But it's only an opportunity. It's only a chance.
If you tune it out, and push people away, and close in on yourself, and blame God that your life isn't as easy as you thought it would be, then your troubles will work against you. If you persist in denial, then your trials will become a missed opportunity for great joy. And you'll miss the chance to grow in your loyalty to Christ.
So troubles are just an opportunity because growth isn't automatic. It's all in how you respond. Troubles can tear down your faith and weaken your faith. Or troubles can build up your faith and strengthen your faith. There are students whose parents got divorced and now their faith is torn apart. Other students came through those hard times with a deeper faith and greater endurance.
God wants you to endure, but how you respond is ultimately up to you.
"So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing" (James 1:4 NLT).
Hope & Despair
Brueggemann on Psalms of Vengeance