I was standing in the lobby at church waiting for my husband when a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time walked up and asked how I was doing. Should I be honest? I wondered. What if she’s just asking to be nice? What if I start crying, and she doesn’t have time to listen?
I could keep it simple and say, “I’m fine,” but I knew I’d be lying. I wasn’t fine. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and really sad. Our daughter had recently been diagnosed with significant developmental delays and multiple learning disabilities. And I was carrying what felt like 500 pounds of uncertainty, not knowing what our little girl’s future would look like or how much to share with others because I didn’t want them to see her differently.
It’s hard to let people know how we’re really doing when the burdens we carry aren’t just our own. Sometimes I act like I am fine because I don’t want to seem weak or like a high-maintenance friend. It’s also easy to think people don’t really want to know when they ask. The truth is, sometimes they are just being nice.
But what about those times when someone sincerely wants to know and I still don’t want to tell them? Honestly, there are times when I will say I’m fine because I want to be. I think that by saying that I can somehow move my emotions in that direction instead of dealing with the messy emotions that are bubbling up inside of me. There have been times when I say I’m fine because I think others expect me to be, whether that’s true or not. And there are also days when hormones and sleep deprivation trump all good manners and if my people are within ten feet they know I am not fine. In fact, if I say I’m fine what I really mean is I’m feeling frazzled, irritated, neurotic, and exhausted!
But not in public — not when telling someone how I’m really doing feels like too big of a risk. And that is how I felt that day in the lobby at church. At a pivotal point of decision. Will I be honest and let her see all of me? Should I let her know how I’m really doing?
Everything in me wanted to keep my guard up, my lips sealed, and my heart safe. But I was tired — tired of pretending I was fine. So I took a risk and let my heart, my words, and my tears spill. I shared the hard parts of countless assessments and these unexpected diagnoses, and the fear of not knowing what our girl’s future would look like.
My friend listened and offered to help. She also prayed for me, and then she thanked me for being willing to be honest and let her know what was really going on. Before she walked away, she paused and told me how often she looked at my life and assumed I was fine and had things all put together. But knowing I needed help, prayers and encouragement — and didn’t have it all figured out — made her feel normal.
That day I saw God working His grace and His strength in my weakness, and I was reminded of the promise the Lord had made to the apostle Paul when He told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).
I am learning that when I’m willing to be weak, God gets to be strong. And when I’m willing to be real, others get to see, pray for, and get to know the real me and the real God I desperately need and love.Leave a Comment
You said it so well. I think it is something most of us struggle with. Your friend’s response should be a reminder that when we are genuine with others, we give them a gift.
I especially love the “N I C E” acronym.
Renee M Swope says
You’re right Madeline, my friend’s words impacted me so much that day. She made me want to be more vulnerable with friends, knowing it might give them more courage to be honest when they are struggling too. I love that inCourage is a safe place for us to be real with each other too!
I tell people I’m fine a lot when I’m not. Like you I think I have to be strong. I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’m tired all the time. I work a part-time job and take care of my 28 year old daughter who has MS. She can’t do much for herself and I do the best I can. My daughter and my grandson help out but it’s mostly on me. I pray for her healing and that God will change her on the inside or change me. No I’m not fine. I’m frustrated and tired. Thanks for sharing your story.
Bless your heart. I’m 60 and have had MS since I turned 31 years old. I’m so very sorry this has happened to your daughter. I know it’s not easy. Keep your faith strong. That faith has gotten me through some really tough times. Your family is in my prayers. Thank you for sharing.
Else, we SEE you and HEAR you. My husband and I will pray for you and your daughter ♡. In those dark places, I try to remind myself ‘whose’ I am. I pray the Lords mercy, grace, comfort and peace, that you’ll be strengthened to know He is with you!
Renee Swope says
Elsie, I’m so sorry for the weight of the world that is on your shoulders. Thank you for sharing with us how you’re really doing so we can pray for and encourage you. You are carrying a very heavy load as a caregiver for your daughter while working part-time and managing all that life brings. I am asking Jesus to give you supernatural strength and extra help in unexpected ways, and that our Heavenly Father would bring you small moments of joy each day to remind you that HE delights in you as His daughter.
“I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
Beth Williams says
Sweet sister. Praying for God to send relief your way. May He give you strength to walk this journey He put you on.
Elsie desperately needs your healing touch in her life. Please help her to sleep better & infuse her with the energy she needs to keep going. Send more help her way. Thank you Lord that she was willing to be open & honest her with us. Bless her Lord with all that she needs now. In Jesus Name
Praying for you Elsie. I’m exhausted too.
Karis, I am praying for the Lord to give you rest, comfort, joy, peace, calm, and a renewal of your strength as you entrust your cares to Him and let Him take care of you. Praying these words for you now:
“The Lord is Your Shepherd, Karis, He makes you lie down in green pastures, He leads you beside quiet waters, He restores your soul. He guides you, Karis, in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you don’t need to fear evil, for He is with you; His rod and staff will comfort you.”
Beth Williams says
Please send rest, peace & calm to Karis. Infuse her with the strength she needs to handle the journey you have her on. Take some of the cares away from her & let her feel joy & happiness. Restore her soul & allow her to rest in you while she refills her soul with your presence. In Jesus Name
So much of my life, for longer than I can remember, has not been “fine”. And for years I have so disliked the polite, meaningless greeting “Hi! How are you?” because it is difficult to give the polite meaningless response “Fine, thank you”. In the past few years when asked, I sometimes respond “Do you want the polite answer, or the truth?” Every time the response has been “the truth”. What a blessing and encouragement it has been! People do care!!
I, too, like your FINE acronym — a touch of levity I needed this morning after a restless night with little sleep .
Ruth Mills says
Amen!!! Thank you for risking & setting the example for us all. May we all be the listeners that truly listen, care, pray & encourage others too!
Thank you so much for that reminder to let go of our ‘fine’ facade. That when we have relationship and community, true fellowship and friendship within the body of Christ that we should seek that friendship for guidance or correction. To allow God to work in us, and move through us. This has also reminded me to not only be honest about how I feel but also being willing and available to those the Lords placed in my life, to truly listen to them when I ask “How are you?”. Father, lead me always to be your faithful servant, and remember that I too need help sometimes and that is OK!
Paula L Vaske says
So needed to hear this . Thank you for sharing . I was in an unhealthy relationship / marriage and because of God I am in it, but it has changed . I used to not share my feelings and everyone thought I was strong. So strong they never showed up whenI was hurting . Today, I share and realize my sharing helps others .
I am saying “fine” more often. Except for a few special people or if I sense something unusual in the person.
I used to be more honest but that led to more pain. My experience: most people do not want to hear of difficulties and WANT everything to be fine, as their eyes glaze over, or they give you cliches or advice that make me feel worse.
Saying “fine” can be a way to preserve my sanity until I am ready to deal.
I feel this. Every word. Right there with you, Stephanie.
Becky Keife says
I resonate with all of this, friend. I’m so glad you took the risk and we’re honest with your friend and then chose to share it with us here.
Linda R Johnson says
It can add to the mental-emotional exhaustion when you respond to that ‘question’ and the person who asked does not reciprocate with genuine care. That is when I shutdown — the disappointment in the ‘friend’ sucks all the wind out of you.
I’ve had to allow God to show me where Community is for me. And yes, sometimes you have to look for them with the same forgiving eyes that you want to see in them. And yes, it means that being vulnerable may result in tears. But sometimes the growth occurs for both parties and behold, true friendship is found.
Transparency can be redemptive.
I currently have lots of difficult things in my life with my family in addition I have bone cancer & recently someone asked “How are you doing?” and I relied. “Hanging in there” and she said, “Sometimes hanging in there causes us to reach the hem of His garment” So I am saying the same thing to each of you. God bless!
I pray for healing for you in Jesus name! Amen
Dealing with a lot of family cases that has over time become so messy, its like I am crumbling under the weight of trying to hold everything. Last year was meant to be the happiest of my life, I finally became a mom….but everything that could go wrong just went wrong, Covid didn’t make it easy..
I just need a friend who will see me and I see them and help each other through this journey called life… not friends who make you feel guilty for being broken or having a crazy upbringing.
Beth Williams says
Please send your healing touch to Frances. Take away the bone cancer & help her to live pain free. Help her deal with family issues. You alone know what they are & can change hearts to be more understanding. Infuse her with strength to keep walking this journey. Send some peace, joy & rest into her life. Help her to be still, rest & refill her soul tank. In Jesus Name AMEN!
Thank you! Thank you for reminding me to let go and let God. He will let us know to whom and when. Praise Him! Praise His Holy name!
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Thank you so much Renee for sharing your heart and your faith. The past few weeks have been difficult and I have felt your definition of fine(which I think is on point )Reminding me that I always have grace from God and that he may put people in my path that I can allow myself to be vulnerable with -that will also give me strength. Most of my life the messages that the world gave is to push on and I thought that was strength. But the older I get I realize how the world(social media now) gets it wrong. That the Lord has always had it right there waiting for me to say,” help me,I can’t and I don’t want to do this alone and be f.i.n.e anymore” God bless you and your readers. Praying we all stay well and safe ❤
Thank-you for sharing your meaningful thoughts with us Renee.
Blessings to all,
Oh so often I feel the same as this lady. We need to be honest when someone asks how are you. It’s easy to put up a front when you don’t want to admit your sorrows hurts etc.
Marcella Harris says
Letting my guard down with others is difficult but I’m glad God puts people in our lives that we can trust. Hopefully we all have that one person and if not then we know He is there to hold us in his Love.
Nancy Ruegg says
Love this, Renee: “When I’m willing to be weak, God gets to be strong.” Vulnerability often opens the door for honesty, intimacy, and God-enhanced moments. But we have to be prepared for those occasions when the other person doesn’t respond as we’d like. Perhaps they DON’T have the time to listen right then or our needs leave them at a loss for what to say. Those occasions provide us the opportunity to develop grace and fortitude–other ways God gets to be strong. And that’s a very good outcome too.
Theresa Boedeker says
So often we think we need to he strong and encourage others, but sometimes we need to be vulnerable which encourages others.
Karen Knowles says
Loved the honesty of your post and your compassionate comments, Renee!
beth willis miller says
Renee, what a wonderful open, honest, and transparent post. I especially liked your quote, “ In fact, if I say I’m fine what I really mean is I’m feeling frazzled, irritated, neurotic, and exhausted!” Many blessings to you
Beth Williams says
This post is spot on. A much needed message for our times. I’m not sure why Christians feel the need to “have it all together” in church. We are all mere humans down here. Life is full of trials & tribulations. I want to know the “real” you warts & all when asking how you are doing. By sharing your un fineness others are given the chance to pray for, encourage & help you out. You don’t have to go into great details, but just let us know you are having some problems & would appreciate prayers. Don’t rob others of the joy of being able to assist in some way. Please take the “fine” masks off & be real. God has us in community for a reason. P.S. love the “Fine” acronym frazzled, irritated, neurotic, and exhausted!
Thank you for acknowledging that when we are willing to be weak, God gets to be strong. I became seriously ill in 2019 and I was forced to let down my guard and be weak for the first time in my life. But it was also a turning point in my spiritual life because God stepped in and carried me with his strength. I am still regaining my health and physical strength, but I feel God’s presence with me as I slowly heal. No matter our burden, if we lay it at His feet, He will guide us through.
Thk you for being honest and a real ‘you’. I believe honesty is still the best especially sharing with sisters in Christ.. also honesty can make relationships longer and walk further..
Gail D says
Thank you for sharing this. So many times I have just said, “I’m fine.” because I felt like no one wanted to hear my story. This stems from the time someone asked how I was, I shared my story and they basically walked away perplexed on what to say. (And that was at church!)