All of us will have times in our lives where we suffer pain that is very obvious to those around us – the illness or death of a loved one, a fire that destroys our possessions, a wayward child, or a divorce. But then there are the times that we suffer very invisibly.
Everything looks like it should be okay from the outside looking in. And no one could guess that we are falling apart on the inside. Invisible pain may be due to a chronic illness that we choose not to discuss. It may be due to a marriage that is falling apart inside the home, but maintains its perfect picture to those outside of it. It may be the betrayal of a friend or family member. Or it may be a high stress job where we are called to compromise our faith or perhaps we are even living under the threat of losing a job. Many times it is as simple as there isn’t enough money to pay the bills and it’s causing great turmoil in our home. It may even be struggling through the consequences of past sin that only we know about – an abortion, a child put up for adoption, an affair. Whatever it is, it is personal and private and only those closest to us realize we are suffering. And maybe we haven’t told another soul…maybe only God knows.
There is one certain thing about invisible pain: it is a lonely place to be. Whether we are watching a soccer game, working at our job , or shopping for groceries, the invisible pain follows us. It is constantly just a thought away in our minds. And yet we remain silent.
This has happened to me several times throughout my life. I was suffering deeply and to the rest of the world everything looked perfect. I have learned from those experiences that looks can be deceiving. I can’t automatically assume that all is perfect in someone else’s world just because it looks like it is to me. It makes me think of one of those bright, shiny, red apples. It looks perfectly delicious. You can’t imagine it being anything other than fresh and crunchy inside. And then you take that first bite. The apple is tasteless and sandy. Just because everything looks perfect on the outside, doesn’t mean it is perfect on the inside.
We may not be in the position to know what is going on in their life, but it is important to have a realistic view of people. All people struggle through tough times. There is no one alive – whether they live in a 45,000 square foot mansion in Hollywood or a hut in Haiti– who doesn’t face tough times at one time or another. We all do. And many of our struggles are not noticeable to the rest of the world. We can never assume that someone who looks put together on the outside feels the same way on the inside.
So let’s be kind and considerate in our relationships with each other, always edifying and encouraging. And if we find out that someone is struggling silently, let’s come along side and offer our love and support instead of gossip and malicious words behind their back. Let’s share the love of Jesus, so that we will never be filled with regret in how we treated someone. It is likely that you will run into someone who is struggling through incredible, invisible pain today. Brighten their day with a warm smile and an encouraging word. And let’s be careful not to make assumptions about others.
I Thessalonians 5: 14-15 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
P.S. I can’t help think, as I write this, about my run-in with the old man at the mall this week. I wish I would have responded differently. I actually wrote this blog post before that happened, and I am finding myself filled with regret at not handling that with a smile and kind words. Just because I can write good things, doesn’t mean I always live them. Please…never hold me up as any kind of perfect model. I wish I was, but alas, I am just a woman who loves the Lord and likes to write.