You Are Not Alone

It’s so easy for us to think that someone else’s life is so simple. Some people just appear to have it all together. Others look as if life was handed to them on a silver platter. They just can’t understand what it is to really suffer. We get the cheerful Christmas letter from family or friends rambling on and on about how perfect their life is.

No one can understand what we are going through.

Or maybe we are the one who feels that we have no burdens compared to the pain of others around us. Pushing back against our pain, in denial about whatever burdens we carry, frustrated with ourselves because we have “no reason” to be upset or depressed, refusing to mourn the losses in our own lives.

In Ministry, you hear what no one else hears. You see what no one else sees. The stories of the struggles, pain and sadness, abusive pasts and heavy burdens that people carry. And what has surprised me, is that everyone has them.

Yes, there are the more obviously visible burdens. The burden is visible in the mom alone in the pew with her children, everyone in church watched as her marriage was torn apart, you can see the pain in the grim looks on the children’s faces, and the fact that their mother is a shadow of her former self. It’s visible when the father diagnosed with terminal cancer goes up to light the church advent candles with his young children, choking back the tears as they read the bible passages. It’s visible when you see the widow who has sat by herself in her pew, for many, many years.

It’s easy to look at some of those examples and have compassion for so much pain and suffering.

And yet, as a minister’s wife, I know the story doesn’t end there. There are all of the invisible burdens as well. The young woman in the back pew, no one knows about her pregnancy and abortion. The wife and mother sitting with her half dozen young children, no one knows about the abuses in her childhood or her current eating disorder. The older couple who have sat in the same pew for 40 years, no one knows their “happy marriage” has been on the verge of divorce for 2 decades. The happily child-free couple now nearing middle age, no one knows that they have never been able to conceive the child they want so badly. The young man so on fire for God leading the Youth Group, no one knows that he struggles with same-sex attraction.

In fact, looking around the church, I cannot see a single person who does not carry a burden. Resolved or unresolved, public or private, every person has pain. Every person has struggles. There is no one who truly has it all together. Why do we struggle to have compassion for the people who’s pain is “invisible”. Why is it so hard to give grace to the people who have “no reason” (that we can understand) for their dysfunction.

Why can’t we see that we all gather together in church as imperfect people, longing for the same thing.
Relief from the pain.
Light in the darkness.
Hope in the midst of despair.
And that’s pretty amazing.

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  • Rae

    Yes. And I think we would all be better off if we recognized that everyone (including ourselves, let's stop the denial!) is broken.

  • priest’s wife

    This is so true- as a priest's wife, I am also in your position. I could think that some people have charemd lives- but it isn't true- everyone has struggles and some have tragedies that we don't see

    so the lesson? Be compassionate as our Lord is compassionate

  • Anonymous

    I love this post. I have been in counseling for about 3 years now. Whenever we "uncover" something…it's always something I have known, felt, recovered from (or so I thought)…but it's mind-blowing to me. Because I have always said, "Wow, I don't have it so bad…" And maybe I don't. But I like what Rae said in her comment. We're all broken. We all need compassion, forgiveness, mercy, love.


  • Dorian Speed

    Excellent post. In the classroom, I try to remind myself of this when dealing with a "challenging" student – that there's probably a whole backstory that I may never know about.

  • Linds84

    You're an amazing person, but you're not perfect. It's the lack of perfection that makes you a truly inspiring Christian. God Bless you and I hope you have a Wonderful Christmas

  • Sarah Z

    Isn't it mind boggling how much pain is out there? It wasn't until seeing life from the "ministry" side of the aisle that I realized it wasn't just my family that was broken or just my parents that had a terrible marriage (compliments of growing up in the bubble). As a child I was told that the very unfortunate and disturbed people in the world needed "help/therapy". When we entered ministry I decided that there were "lots" of people that needed therapy. In the last two years I have changed that to "everyone". We should all just get therapy as a matter of course. Even the best of childhoods and the healthiest of people are still in pain and in need of love and support.