Suffering in Silence
The story sounds something you might see on the TV news or a made-for-TV movie, but it happened to people we knew and loved. One of our former members came home from work to find that her whole family was dead. Her husband had shot and killed their two teen-aged children and then turned the gun on himself. The interviews with friends and neighbors we saw on the news were identical to the interviews we've all seen after similar tragedies before. "They were a quiet family that kept to themselves." "He really seemed to adore his kids." "I never dreamed that anything was wrong." No motive was ever found for this senseless tragedy, but there was a reason somewhere. Something was going on behind closed doors or hidden deep within this man’s heart. And if someone would have only known, then maybe they could have helped him. But it seems that whatever the demons he was wrestling with, he chose to wrestle alone. He suffered in silence.
Many people made the same choice. This morning I ran across a headline that I couldn't believe at first-- “More Americans Commit Suicide than are Killed in Car Crashes.” The headline, carried in multiple news outlets, was based on a study in American Journal of Public Health. The good news is that this statistic is partly true because the number of traffic fatalities has taken a radical dip. But the idea that more people kill themselves on purpose than are killed by accident on our highways is very surprising. Too many of us are way too proficient at keeping our pain and struggles hidden. We develop defense mechanisms to mask or deny our pain. We don’t want anyone to know that we don’t have the ideal family. We don’t want anyone to know that we aren't the ideal person. Sure, it is natural not to want to air all our dirty linen for the world to see. But this radical privacy that we have developed leads us to insulate ourselves from seeking the help we need from others. We want to keep our skeletons safely hidden in the closet. We may struggle with secret sin, failing marriage, wavering faith… and then invest our energy into keeping the problem safely hidden from others. We suffer in silence rather than reaching out for help and for healing.
This is the "natural" response… as opposed to the "spiritual" response. Paul tells those who are spiritual to make themselves available to help those in the middle of struggle—
Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. (Gal 6:1, NCV)
True spirituality is the willingness to involved to help with the struggles of our brothers and sisters. The spiritual person is not some hermit monk who lives above the cares and concerns of this world; being spiritual is about making oneself available to get hands dirty in muck and mire of other people's lives. And that also means that being "spiritual" is about making ourselves vulnerable and accountable to others as we invite them into our mess to help us. God doesn't want us to suffer in silence. He invites you to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT). And one way God works to take all our “worries and cares” is through His people that He puts in our lives.