All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. . . . Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.
Psalm 38:9-10, 21-22
The phone rings.
I reach to answer, but then caller ID flashes on the screen. My hand hovers as two competing needs play tug-of-war within me. One is the need to remain loyal, to conform to habit, to simply pick up the phone and say, “Hey there! How are you?” The other is a newer need, one that’s been growing at a surprising pace: the need to quit faking fine.
The phone rings again, and I teeter between duty and desire. I know the person calling loves me. I also know that our conversation will follow one of two scripts.
In the first, when they ask, “How are you?” I will muster up my best acting skills and put on a convincing performance. And they will be thrilled to hear I’m doing so well. They will praise God that their prayers for me are being answered. They will affirm me for doing all the right things: reading my Bible, praying, keeping a gratitude journal, serving others.
In the second script, when they ask, “How are you?” I will tell the truth. I am doing all the right things: reading my Bible, praying, keeping a gratitude journal, serving others. And I am exhausted. Depleted. Discouraged. Possibly depressed. After a brief pause—during which it will be deafeningly obvious that they will not be praising God that their prayers for me are being answered—they will muster up a pick-me-up speech meant to fix me.
I will do my best to listen while simultaneously choking back tears. I will know they want to help, but I will feel an undercurrent of blame for not trying hard enough to hold myself together. And I will feel dismissed, as if their need for positivity is a higher priority than my current reality.
I’m in a season of unremitting grief, feeling a cascade of losses in very vivid ways.
Well-meaning friends and family members keep telling me about specific practices they’re leaning into that make them feel much more upbeat and positive. I’m not questioning them; I believe them. Whenever they tell me about their helpful habits, I feel pressure to come up with my own go-to solution so I can sound equally positive.
But the truth is, sometimes lament is the right response to seasons of grief. And while I crave human understanding, I know I cannot expect from humans what only God can provide. So instead, I follow the Psalmist’s lead and call out to the One who can handle my sorrow.
Letting the phone call go to voicemail, I sit down in my prayer chair with my Bible and prayer journal. There, I pour out my heart and my tears to God with no restraint. I’ll return the call when I’m not a ticking time bomb of reactivity, ready to detonate on an unsuspecting friend or family member. First, I need to be real and raw with God alone.
It’s okay to feel a deep sense of loss with God. It’s such a relief to know He sees us where we actually are. Not where others wish us to be, expect us to be, need us to be. God can handle every single bit of our humanity. With Him, there’s no dismissiveness, no reprimand, no round-about hinting about how you should be feeling. No cliché, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional!”
With God, you never ever need to fake fine. You are seen by God. You are known by God. You are loved by God. Right where you are, right now.