1. It’s not a national disaster/other people have it worse.
Yes – there are a lot of people hurting and they need our prayers and support. But God cares about them and He cares about you. Suffering is not a sliding scale where you earn divine airtime. And (at least in my experience), this becomes ‘it’s too small to bother God’ which becomes ‘it’s too small for other Christians’ which becomes ‘no-one understands and I’ll cope alone’ which always ends badly.
2. There’s a time limit to suffering (and I’ve exceeded it)
Here’s the drill: Manflu: 5 mins. PMT: an hour. Stolen handbag: 24 hours. Death of a pet: 3 weeks. Financial ruin: 7 months. Loss of a loved one: 2 years. Got it? No? – well, that’s because sometimes, it takes time to get ‘over’/’through’/’keep breathing’. And that’s actually okay.
3. I don’t want to complain.
Absolutely. Grumbling is not good. ‘I want a cucumber! What’s with the endless manna’ etc, etc. However, the alternative is not Keeping It Together/Holding It In. There’s a third way – where you can be honest with someone you trust and take it together to the throne room, (open 24/7, including bank holidays). And people can’t help you if you don’t ask.
4. I don’t speak the language.
If you can break through nos 1+3, you may find yourself lapsing into the wonders of suffering shorthand. I speak of – ‘It’s okay, God is sovereign,’ ‘mustn’t grumble’, ‘we’ve lost everything but suffering now, glory later‘ etc, etc. These things are true – but sometimes, they act as full-stops when they should be semi-colons. You’re allowed to articulate the hard bits in between. See also, ‘I’ll pray for you’. This is always a winner – BUT, it might be an idea to speak/listen so you know what to pray about. And then (note to self), actually do it.
5. It looks like God’s gone on holiday and I need to protect Him.
With this one, we feel like we’re doing God a favour by pretending all is well. For the sake of “our witness” we keep it together. But, God’s still in the office and He doesn’t need you in the press department. I’m not saying you bare all to everyone – but you can be honest with your friends. Sometimes we don’t know what He’s doing. Sometimes we try to trust but wobble. Happy faces can be exhausting. So remember: we don’t carry God, He carries us.