This past Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from MiKayla, and she was really excited to share with me what she had heard that morning. MiKayla had gone with her sister to church and heard a message. She immediately said to me, “Mom, you would have loved this. It reminded me of you.” As MiKayla shared what the message was about then I had quite a few ideas why she thought that I would have loved the message, but I asked her to tell me.
MiKayla readily shared that the emphasis was on being real when we are hurting and not isolating ourselves. MiKayla shared quite a few examples from the message, and the conversation was so much fun for me as it was just another wonderful example of how much my sweet baby girl has grown emotionally. Mikayla also shared in this conversation about her goals that she is working on.
MiKayla and I both continue to work on anxiety about the future after the traumas that our family has endured. In August 2011, my husband died in a work related accident and in June 2013, only 22 months later, my only son was instantly killed in a car accident at the age of 18. MiKayla has been healing and growing throughout these past years, and this last year she has shown a lot of growth emotionally.
I love hearing how my girls are healing and growing after all of the tremendous pain and trauma that they have had to endure in their young lives. It was so positive for me to hear MiKayla loving the message of being real in our pain and agreeing that it is good to share that with others. This is a big step for my sweetheart who tried so hard to just think happy thoughts and to keep the pain that she was suffering pushed away from her thoughts. She had buried her pain deep within her.
MiKayla and I moved on in our conversation to other items from her day, but it was really wonderful to hear about her excitement from this message. It was also a blessing for me to hear how she knew that I believed so much in what he was talking about and encouraging.
After I got off of my phone call, I was scrolling through Facebook. On Facebook, my friend Vanessa was sharing a live video about this very message that had so touched MiKayla’s heart. I was amazed. In such a short time, I was hearing about this message twice from two different people that lived in two different cities. Vanessa was in tears as she was pleading with others to listen to this video and to be real in their pain and hurt. It was a short video from Vanessa,but it was quite powerful in the raw emotion that she was displaying as she urged others to watch this. She posted the link, and I was able to sit and listen to this message that I had now heard about twice in just a short time.
The pastor, Chris Hodges, who was giving the message was from Alabama and was laughing about why a LSU guy would be in Alabama. I wished I could tell him that of course he was there to cheer on my BAMA. #rolltide
Pastor Chris shared about how he had never shared a message on depression in his 35 years of preaching and that his best friend had not shared a message on this in his 30 years of preaching. I really did not feel shocked at hearing this. I wish that it would shock me that it is not talked about more openly in churches, but I was very thankful that he was talking about it that day.
Pastor Chris shared about the stigma of mental health issues. He used an example of a cold and how comfortable everyone seems to be talking to someone about their cold symptoms. He contrasted that with how uncomfortable so many people are discussing their mental health issues or emotional pain with others. He shared how this stigma isolates us and discourages us from talking to others about our emotional pain and asking for help and prayer when we are struggling in these areas. His words were, “It’s ok NOT to be ok.” As soon as he said those words, “It’s ok NOT to be ok,” then I understood exactly why my daughter was able to see why I would be completely on board with what he was sharing. His message in that short phrase, “it’s ok NOT to be ok,” is at the heart of what I want people who are grieving and in emotional pain to understand. I believe that our fast paced culture typically pressures the grieving to rush through the motions of grieving and does not make those who are grieving comfortable in sharing and expressing their pain. Often there is such a push to move on quickly. I shared a lot about this in one of my first blogs, “Grief and Pain in Today’s Culture-Let’s Push Back & Slow Down”, that I posted on June 19, 2017, It is the hope of my heart that those who are hurting and in pain are able to be real and to share how they truly are with others. I will continue to “push back” on this push forward that so many who are hurting and in pain receive and are not helped by.
Pastor Chris shared about how often people put on a “fake smile” when they are struggling with deep emotional pain. He shared about how many people in today’s culture are trying to “medicate their pain away.” He also shared how often our culture seeks advice peer to peer and does not use the wisdom from generations that are older than us. This is such a tremendous nugget of wisdom! Let us learn from generations who have gone before us. There are cultures in our world that do live this way and desire to learn from and honor their elders. We would grow so much in our society if we could apply this truth to our culture.
Pastor Chris emphasized, “It’s got to be ok for us to say, ‘I’m not ok.”
I love this statement. How my heart longs for others to be free in their grief and emotional pain and to be able to say, “I’m NOT ok.” How my heart longs for people of faith to know that this is not a weakness or a lack of faith but a human truth. Those of you who are right now grieving or in some sort of emotional pain, I urge you to find those that you can share with and be real with. I hope that you learn that being honest about your pain will help you in ways that nothing else is able to.
Pastor Chris utilized examples from The Bible to show how even the authors of books of The Bible were not ok. He shared how some of the greatest prophets were battling depression. Pastor Chris shared how the book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah. He said Lamentations was just a “fancy way of saying, ‘Hey, I am having a bad life right now.'” He also shared about Paul from the New Testament and that even though he wrote so many books of The Bible that he still felt “despairing of life.” (2 Cor 1:8)
Pastor Chris strongly encouraged and urged those who were in emotional pain to share with others and to take the mask of pretending off. His words were, “It’s ok to feel bad about things but it is not ok to have that conversation by yourself.” Too often, people who are in pain and grief isolate themselves from others. Perhaps we are concerned that no one cares or that they do not understand how we are struggling. Perhaps we are worried about what others will think of us. Whatever our concern may be, I hope that each of us takes Pastor Chris’s words to heart and reaches out to others.
For Pastor Chris’s solutions, he utilized verses beginning in 1 Kings 18 with Elijah. He shared Elijah’s example of what not to do when you are feeling upset. Elijah had shared that he was going to go and process what was happening by himself. Pastor Chris’s words to that were, “That was a bad decision. You are the last person that you should be getting counsel from when you are in a bad place.”
He shared of the desperation that Elijah felt and how he expressed it with his words of, “Lord, I have had enough.” Pastor Chris shared that Elijah did 4 things that put him in a bad place. The first item was “faulty thinking.”
The second item was “isolating himself.” Pastor Chris urged, “Do not isolate yourself. Have the guts to take off your mask and tell someone what is really going on.” He used the verse from Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
The third item to not follow Elijah’s example in was being led by feelings. Pastor Chris shared that feelings are “real”, but they are not always truth or accurate. Pastor Chris urged all of us to “not be led by our feelings.”
The fourth item was to not play the comparison game. He shared how social media plays a negative role for many in playing the comparison game. Pastor Chris compared social media to viewing “everyones’ highlight reel” while we struggle with the realities and pain of every day life.
Pastor Chris shared that what we can take away from Elijah’s errors is the following things. He urged us to not follow in his mistakes. He shared of how crucial it is for us to “get healthy physically”. He encouraged all of us to sleep and get adequate rest for our bodies. He shared how important it is to have time outside with other people and to be in the sunlight.
He urged all of us to “slow down.” Pastor Chris used the verse from Psalm 46:10 that says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Next, he encouraged all of us to pour out our heart to God and to others. He shared that God can handle how we feel. He reminded us all that God invites us to healing and for all that are weary and burdened to come to God and that He will give rest for our souls.” Matt 11:28,29
He warned that we “are all moving too fast”. He told us to be still and to know that He is God. Finally, he shared that we should have something in our lives bigger than our own problems. Pastor Chris encouraged us to “let God give us a new purpose and a new direction for our lives.” He said, “have something eternal that you are living for.” “Give your life to something that matters.”
I loved this message. I completely understood why my daughter thought that I would love it. It is at the heart of why I have this blog and why I continue to share our story. I want others to understand as they look at my two daughters’ and my lives to understand how painful loss is in our immediate family. I want others to understand that when we go through traumas that they have the ability to affect us and to trigger us in all sorts of areas of our lives. I want others to understand that we can learn to recognize what those effects and triggers are and that we can grow and learn even in the midst of our grief and our emotional pain. I want others to know that we can all find hope for our futures and honor those that we have lost by giving our best in our own lives as we continue to seek peace and healing.
If you are struggling with grief or some sort of emotional pain then I hope with all of my heart that you learn that “it’s ok NOT to be ok.” I hope that you find others that you can share with and be real with. I hope that you can learn from Pastor Chris’s examples and that you do not isolate yourself or try to gain counsel by yourself. I hope that you take his encouragement of what to do to heart. Let’s all get healthy physically, slow down, and pour out our hearts to God and to others. Let’s be there for others who are grieving or in emotional pain. Let’s take off our masks and be real. Let us all know that:
“It’s ok NOT to be ok.” Pastor Chris
Below I put the link to this message if you would like to listen to it for yourself. Please give yourself and others permission to be real through your actions and your words. I am sure going to do my best to try to do that every day. Let’s all give our lives to something that matters.