When I was 15, my mom was in a near-fatal car accident. For the first week, the doctors weren’t certain that she’d survive. She did survive, but recovery was long, hard, and never quite complete. The next two years were some of the most grueling for our family, and I suffered through months of depression as a result. I tried to confide in someone about it and was promptly told that if a Christian was depressed it was because they weren’t praying hard enough. The guilt that single comment heaped on me did nothing to help me get better, and discouraged me from seeking the counseling I desperately needed.
The internet is filled with people telling us how to do everything from mopping to moving the “right way.” Christians experts are eager to tell us how to do things the “Christian” way. There’s nothing wrong with seeking advice; but it’s easy, too easy, to get stuck in the idea that there’s just one way to do things. Very few things in life are truly one size fits all.
I don’t think any of us would argue that we each have a different combination of talents, personality, and interests. Why then, is it harder for us to accept that we also have different ways of making decisions and dealing with what life hands us?
I’ve been told that my grandmother kept an immaculate house and vacuumed her carpets daily. Balancing work, my husband’s travel schedule, homeschooling four kids, and general life means that my house is not quite as immaculate as Grandma’s. I have tried many methods that promised to be the best way to do things, and none of them really worked out. I finally settled on a compilation of ideas that fits our family. It’s not the way that everyone else does it, but it doesn’t have to be.
Whether you’re figuring out a solution for Mt. Washmore, or picking out a math curriculum, it’s okay for you to toss all of the “shoulds” nagging you and do what works for you and your family. Start from scratch and consider all of the options. Write out a pros and cons list if that helps you think through things. If what you pick isn’t quite right, tweak things until it is, or try something else. Go with what’s best for your family and let go of the guilt!
I always envied the super-spiritual Christians – people who spent two hours a day in prayer, or read the entire Bible in a month. I knew that a daily quiet time was important, but no matter which reading plan, Bible on tape, devotional book, or study guide I tried, I couldn’t seem to figure out how to do it “right.” A year and a half ago, I stumbled upon a blog post about writing out Scripture passages in a journal each day. I enjoy writing things out by hand, and it helped me to connect with the Scriptures in a way that I’d struggled to do before! I’ve even started writing out some of my prayers.
There’s nothing wrong with any of the other things that I mentioned; it’s just a matter of each of us finding out what helps us to grow in our faith. There are foundations of faith that remain constant. We’re all sinners and can only be saved through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. But, my spiritual growth won’t happen on the same timetable, or even through the same methods, as yours. What’s important is that we cultivate our relationship with God and keep growing!
Life isn’t always easy. As Christians, we have hope that can only be found through our faith in God. As powerful as that is, we can lose sight of it because we’re focused on putting up a good front. We think that Christians shouldn’t feel angry, scared, or depressed. We’re afraid admitting that we do will make people think less of us.
We all have to process and deal with things in our own way. Some need to do this quietly and on their own, some need the support of friends and loved ones who will listen and encourage, and some need the help of a professional. None of these options are any holier than the others. The important thing is to process what has happened and deal with how it’s affecting us. When we stuff all of this down deep instead of facing it, we deprive ourselves of seeing God’s grace in the situation as we work through it. There are things that I don’t think I’ll understand this side of heaven, but I can still see glimpses of God’s hand in my life. That alone is worth the pain of facing the hard things.
“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13 (HCSB)