When You’re Not Okay

 

“I’m okay, just a little tired. Don’t worry about me.”

Maybe people have been gently probing you and worry clouds their eyes when you say these words. You’re not okay and you know it. Still you say you’re okay because:

  • You don’t know how to say you’re not okay.
  • Everyone has problems.
  • You don’t want to be a negative person.
  • God never gives you more than you can handle.
  • You don’t want to bother someone else with your problems.
  • You’ve promised someone you won’t tell your secret.
  • You’re afraid of what your friend may think if they know how you really are.

If this is you, you’re in a very dangerous place, my friend.

We all need positive friends who will point out the good things in life, encourage us,  and share a cheery outlook. Our friends need encouragement, not non-stop complaining. But a brave façade can sometimes mask serious danger.

In recent years I watched friends walk away from their faith, come to a point of no-return in their marriage, isolate themselves from friends who could help them, fall into secret sin that no one would ever suspect them of, and burn out through sheer exhaustion. (I bet you have seen this too, because these heartaches are everywhere.) By the time I find out, it’s usually too late to help. And I wonder, “Would I or someone else have been able to help if we’d known about their struggle much earlier in the game?”

But our culture teaches us to be independent. This is especially true of people in fulltime ministry. Christian culture sometimes expects us to rely solely on God in our problems. We’re afraid to quit saying, “I’m fine,” and be honest enough to say, “I’m not okay. I’m not just struggling, I’m really in trouble.”

You may have five hundred friends on Facebook, a team you share sports with, a church family of people who can sometimes remember your name. But you still don’t have enough friends unless you have one or two you can look in the eye and say scary things like:

  • I think I’m losing my faith.
  • My marriage is in serious trouble.
  • I’m wondering if this is abuse.
  • I’m seriously depressed.
  • I fear I’m on the edge of physical exhaustion.
  • I’m hiding a secret sin.

Most often we get caught in a cycle of fear of asking hard questions and giving hard answers. If our friends are going to be able to help us, we need to be transparent enough that they will know we will welcome their input, not resent their intrusion.

People can’t always see our problems or understand the extent of them. That means we may have to initiate a conversation about our problems with a trusted friend and keep talking until they hear what we’re saying.

So much heartache in relationships could be avoided or healed if we could go to trusted friends for help and they could come to us with concerns. It’s easy to resent honest questions, but we need to welcome them from the heart of a trusted friend. Even if the questions hurt. Even if our friend doesn’t get it quite right. Because honest questions can be the warning lights for needs we don’t even know we have.

So next time a friend asks you, “Are you okay?” don’t answer too quickly. Maybe you need to be honest enough to ask for help. Trusted friends should be able to ask us questions like these without being resented:

  • On what basis do you say you are a true Christian?
  • I see some serious warning signs in your relationship. Can I talk to you about them?
  • Are you just a bit down, or are you in a spiritual, emotional, or physical place of danger?
  • Are you struggling spiritually? How can I help?
  • Are you getting enough rest?
  • How is your relationship with the Lord? What are you reading for devotions?
  • Are you spending enough quality time with your family?
  • Are you okay?

 

New Sources for Puppet Teams

My husband is now preparing to take a load of teens to teen camp at the end of the month. Missionary and local pastors take on many of the volunteer jobs at camp. Art has been volunteered to teach the teens, by groups, how to start a puppet ministry in their churches.

Missionary pastors have to be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice. Art has performed his share of puppet shows as well, during our time as missionaries. In the last twenty years however, most of our puppet shows have been performed by puppet teams. Lori, our own daughter, started our first puppet team in New Zealand. Most of the time I’ve supervised the puppet team, but I’m not planning on going to teen camp this year. Art has had adequate experience and I’m sure he will do a good job. Since I write most of our puppet shows and lead most of our puppet teams, however, I wanted to help him out. While I’m preparing material for camp, I’m also writing up these materials to help others who want to start puppet teams.

If you’re thinking of starting a puppet team in your church, you might find these articles helpful.

Should Our Church Start a Puppet Ministry?

How to Start a Puppet Team

Hand Puppet Sources

How to Write a Puppet Script

Puppet Scripts

Summer Reading: What happened after the 5 Martyrs died?

In 1956 five men; Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian, and Ed McCulley; refused to fire shotguns as a barbaric tribe of Ecuadorian indians speared them to death. This is the best known story of martyrs in the twentieth century. This story is, in itself, an inspiring one. But if you think the story stops there, you’ve missed the most exciting part. These men did not die in vain. Read these books to see how the Gospel totally revolutionized this savage tribe.

Summer Reading That Could Change Your Life

Do you ever find yourself getting weary in ministry? You’re tired of giving out so much more than you take in. You’re weary of people and problems and you wonder if your labor could really be in vain after all.

The story of these five Christian women (Joni Tada, Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliott, Mary Weaver, and Corrie ten Boom) who overcame hardship may be just what you need to read this summer. All five of these stories inspired me to keep on going when I read them. They also stuck with me. Years after I first read them, these stories still help me. They put my own life in perspective and remind me that God is there, even in the darkest days. He’s working for our good, when that truth is hard to believe. These stories changed my life, as a great biography often will.

This summer you may be looking for a book to help you pass time or rest from the daily routine. Or maybe you just love a great read. I recommend all of these highly. But watch out! They’ll probably change your life forever.

Summer Reading

As Christian workers, our busy lives sometimes don’t leave much time for reading for pleasure. When was the last time you read a Christian novel? Maybe Christian fiction seems like a waste of time when you could be doing something more profitable, but consider this:

  • Stories broaden your world and help you understand other points of view.
  • Reading builds vocabulary, writing skills, and creativity.
  • Reading slows memory loss in later life.
  • Reading helps you escape from your problems and rest.
  • Reading relieves stress (and who doesn’t need that?)
  • Reading good Christian novels fills your mind with good things.
  • You can read wherever you go, even while you are waiting.
  • Reading is fun!

This summer as you head toward the mountains, the beach, a national park, or your relatives, don’t forget to take a book or two. Load up your e-reader with quality Christian fiction and be ready for everything from  a peaceful quiet time to a long ride in a car.

Need help to get started? Check out my list of 5 fiction books and 2 nonfiction books about cross-cultural relationships and ministry.