Two blog posts caught my attention this past week, and I can’t seem to get them out of my head. The first post was from a mom with a special needs child writing about how she is unable to like pictures posted on facebook of her friend’s children doing things that her own child will never be able to do. It was a touching, honest piece about the struggles of raising a child with unique challenges. But, while I felt for the author, her conclusions did not sit well with me.
The second piece was an equally honest post also by a mother. This mom wrote about her struggle with feelings of heartbrokenness when she saw her friends’ beautifully decorated nurseries while she raised her two kids in a cramped trailer. Due to a tough financial time, she and her husband were unable to give their kids the space and material comforts that they longed to be able to provide which left this young mom feeling inadequate and unable to rejoice with her friends who were blessed with more spacious accommodations.
I feel for these two ladies. Clearly, they love their kidos and long for them to have as “normal” lives as possible. What I cannot agree with is their conclusions that sometimes your own life is too painful to rejoice in other people’s happiness and that these feelings are some how ok. I just can’t agree. It’s good to be honest about struggles, pain and disappointments in life, but allowing a mindset of, “I can only be happy for you when things are going well for me,” is pure poison. Don’t swallow it.
Last month marks 20 years since my beautiful twin sister Allison passed away. The hurt is still so real that I often find it hard to even talk about her without tearing up. It will probably always be this way, but interestingly enough, I’ve often found healing through allowing myself to be friends with other twins. Yes, there are moments that my heart simply aches when I see twins interacting because I miss that special closeness in my own life, but I’m happy for them. My story also adds a perspective to the lives of twins that I’m privileged to meet because in a way it serves as a reminder for them to be extra thankful for their twin which some have taken for granted.
We are all asked to walk different walks and of course most people would not choose the hard path if given a choice. So many couples passionately declare the vows, “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health,” but do we really mean it? When financial struggles actually hit or one partner’s health mars the dream of a perfect happy-ever-after, too many times divorce follows. The vows were empty syllables. Someone leaves, seeking their happiness elsewhere, claiming that this wasn’t the life they signed up for even though they had previously vowed to stick it out.
Hard times are a reality. It’s unrealistic to expect a fairytale life in a world that is broken by sin. This is why we need people to walk through life with us and not alienate ourselves when things didn’t turn out as expected. The wisest king in history wrote there is, “a time to weep and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Be there for the tears as well as the celebrations even when it’s not your celebration. We need to stop entertaining the lie that we deserve certain things in life like healthy kids, a picture perfect house, and the perfect marriage.
Each day is a gift. Each life is different from the next, so live yours not someone else’s. Sometimes the best way to work through pain is to take the focus off yourself and be there for someone else. Cry with them in their pain but also be big enough to rejoice with them when something good is happening in their life even if that same thing isn’t happening in yours. Comparison often leads to jealousy and jealousy can lead to hatred of other people’s lives or even your own life. That tenth commandment about not coveting is there for a reason. God doesn’t want us looking around at other people’s things whether that be a well developing child or a perfectly decorated nursery and wish that it was ours. He gives daily grace to handle what life brings and that should be the focus, not alienating people from your life because they have what you wish you could.
Not to say that life is easy or that pain does not cut deeply. It does, so deeply sometimes. But, it’s not healthy to stay too long in that place of pain. Of course, it’s harder for someone who is struggling with infertility to rejoice with a friend who announces her third pregnancy, but what love when the person is able to do so. There aren’t easy answers at times. Of course we all wish for healthy children and financially secure lives, but Jesus said in John 16:33, “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have over come the world.” The first part of the verse says, “I have told you these things so that you may have peace.” Maybe those trouble will come now, or maybe they will come later down the road. The question is how will you handle it—with grace and peace or with bitterness? What will you learn from the painful times? Will your response inspire others up or push them way? The enemy wants us to think that we are in this alone. No one else can possible understand our pain, but that’s not true. When one part of the body of Christ is in pain the whole body feels it even down to the tiniest toe. That’s why we need each other. That’s why it’s important to weep together and also to laugh together.
Each situation is unique. Each special needs child has something to teach the world that only he or she can teach. Every financial struggle is a building block for later in life. Honestly, your children will remember your love and time spent together more then they will a cutely painted nursery decked out in pinterest’s latest.
Be YOU and let your friends be them. Your story, especially those painful parts, is unique. Live your life not someone else’s. Laugh through the fun parts and cry through the hard times. Let people cry with you and be open to rejoicing with them as well. It’s a way to heal your own heart. Don’t let the green eyed monster of jealousy take your eyes off the good things that your life has to offer which includes having the grace to rejoice with those around you.