“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?