It’s OK but it may not get better
I think it is important to acknowledge all the feelings and painful truths we live with day in and day out. While I know empirically that everything will eventually be okay and I know that it is alright to be in the thick of it all with the hope of relief, it all can get lost with one misplaced or poorly timed word of encouragement, no matter how well-intentioned it is.
When someone is hurting, it is “normal” human compassion to offer some words of comfort. But sometimes well-meaning words can come across as a band-aid on an oozing and infected wound. It just does not work. It is our own way of putting our own pain and discomfort in a box so we can manage it. The thoughts of others can bring relief, hope, hurt, sadness, fear, anger, gratitude, love, warmth, despair, loss, longing depending on how and when it is said. Further, treating the soul is often more complicated than caring for the physical state because a person in a fragile state of mental health can still drown in a healthy body.
“It will get easier” is probably the most offensive thing we can say to the person in the grip of pain. “Everything will be alright” is not necessarily true and is an unhelpful band-aid-like treatment of a deep wound. When we tell someone who is despairing that “life will get better”, we offer only an illusion of hope and borrow from a future that isnâ€™t promised, a future that depends entirely on their own endurance of the pain. These statements take for granted a well of strength within that person that they may not possess. Additionally, it seems self-soothing to fast forward through all the ugly parts from the outside perspective and perhaps invalidates the pain that still must be lived with, especially when the present is so vivid and intense. Telling someone that tomorrow is brighter does not change the reality of today. We cannot hurry time. We cannot force hope to become truth.
So what is the right thing to say or do? How do we translate the truths we know and the promises we claim to a person who is overwhelmed with pain and living in survival mode? How do we help someone have biblical hope of a bright tomorrow while they struggle in the dark? I don’t really know, but I will say that when I have lost my way, it has been helpful to have people scream along with me. It has helped me to lean on the faith of another when mine was non-existent. It helps to have people who know the song of my heart and sing the words to me when I have forgotten them. I am best loved when I am not hurried along and when I am allowed to move at my own pace without pushing me past the hurts and letting me heal in real time.