There is a waning (but still far too prevalent) line of thought among Christians. This is the line of thought that says Christians should never feel bad or let others know they are feeling bad. They should always be happy or pleasant and never worry about anything. This goes doubly for anyone in a elder/deacon/preaching/leadership capacity.
So let's just get this out there right now. That line of thought is completely and utterly incorrect.
If life was always fine, if we always felt good, why would we be called to pray for each other, encourage each other, and sacrifice our time and talents for one another? It would make no sense. And yet we go around on Sunday morning saying how great things are, that everything is good, and life is wonderful.
And usually, the ones we put the biggest pressure on to "be okay," or in expecting our lives to be great, is ourselves.
Call it the Facebook effect, or the Pinterest effect or whatever else you desire, the result is still the same. It is really nothing new, just magnified from what it used to be. There was a time when having the "perfect life" meant looking like Leave it to Beaver. Now it looks like making Cookie Monster cupcakes while jet skiing in your new above-ground pool you built from the bamboo you grew in your backyard in a bed of renewable soil made out of recycled plastic bags.
Unfortunately, when we make the decision that our happiness should look like their happiness, we end up not being very happy at all. We hold ourselves to an impossible standard, and then we get discouraged when things turn out like this:
Churchgoer A really is having a good run in life. Everything is looking up.
Churchgoer B is having a bit of a rough spot, but wants to look like A so they fake it.
Churchgoer C is in a bad place, but feels worse because they don't look like A or B, so they fake it and stew in a run of self-defeating lies about how they need to be happier.
Churchgoer D is broken, and feels they have no one to turn to because everyone else is happy, so why shouldn't they be? So they fake it, feeling worse and worse because they feel like they are living a lie.
Then the cycle continues like this.
Churchgoer A's good run comes to a screeching halt, and life derails. Everyone else is "happy" though, so they decide they just need to tough it out.
Churchgoer B's life gets a bit better, and they wonder why God allowed that particular trial to come into their life.
Churchgoer C has spiraled into a very bad spot in life, and wonder why no one has come to encourage or rescue them from it.
Churchgoer D has decided the church isn't where they are going to get any help, so they leave to look for greener pastures.
How different would the above scenarios look if these people had been honest with each other. If they had been open and honest about the struggles, sins, and difficulties they had faced? If they had chosen honesty and humility instead of fake happy lies, there could have been help, encouragement, and healing. Perhaps they would have even been able to see God use the trials they were facing in order to help those around them, giving purpose to all the things they went through.
Now I am not saying that every tiny thing that throws us off course the tiniest bit should be brought up in every conversation. If I have a single bad day on Tuesday that doesn't really affect anything else, I don't think its necessary to bring it up the following Sunday. Its something in the past that I'm over and done with. No big deal.
I am saying that we, as a church, as a whole, need to be fully and truly open with each other. We need to be honest about what we are actually going through. We need to be able to share our triumphs and failures, and joys and despairs, if we are truly going to grow closer together and become the church God calls us to be.
And we need to do it from both sides.
To those who are doing well: do not be offended by another's struggle. Do not try and escape the conversation or look for a way out. Instead listen, encourage, and empathize with your brother or sister who has opened to you looking for a friend and comrade.
To those who are having difficulty: trust that the Lord will guide you to those you need to open up to. Be honest about the struggles you face with others and you may be surprised at to find that those you are talking to may have had similar experiences that can be of use to you. You may find that you are not alone in your struggle at all, even though it felt that way.
To all: pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do it when they open up to you and when they don't. Don't just say "I'll pray for you," do it right there. In the middle of conversation after services.
Wow. How different would the church look if we took time "after church," standing in the auditorium, to stop and privately pray for those we are talking to. There is not telling what great and amazing things might happen.
Let us open ourselves to one another. Let us be honest about our sins and struggles. Let us do so in order that we may pray for and encourage one another, and find healing in the Lord's body.
Feeling bad is not bad.
Pretending we don't is.
Let us be a people of Openness, Honesty, Encouragement, and Prayer.