The following may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, you’re supporting me and my writing without spending anything extra. Thank you!
As one living with chronic illnesses and undiagnosed diseases, I’ve often struggled with how I feel and how I feel that I should feel. There seems to be an unspoken rule that if we say we are Christians, the answer to “How are you?” should always be positive. When I first became noticeably ill four years ago, not many people knew. Especially not the church I was attending at the time. I felt I would become overwhelmed with questions that kept having no answers and come off as dramatic because I wasn’t okay.
The lie Christians like to tell each other is that everything will be okay, so we need to be positive and trust God. Where is honesty and truth in that? It’s not that it’s not true that everything will be okay one day, because when we’re with Jesus, it will be okay but as I have grown and moved on from that time, I’ve realized this way of looking at our lives is not correct or biblical. God gave us emotions and feelings, and no, we are not to let them control us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel them. If we believe God is in us, we have to pay attention to our feelings and emotions because God can talk to us through those.
I’ve spent years saying I am okay and pushing on because I thought that was what God wanted from me. I ignored the urge to let myself rest, and a year later, I had rest forced upon me in the form of three hospital stays.
Was I lying when I said I was “good” or “doing well”? Maybe. But it certainly wasn’t the whole truth, and to form real connections with others, we have to be able to go to that deeper level and be honest and share our struggles, possibly even more than our triumphs.
Yes, I am alive and breathing, and I am blessed because of that and because God loves me, but that does not mean I can’t feel hurt and express that. Unfortunately, our culture tends to push anything negative aside and proclaim, “Good vibes only,” which is an unhealthy mindset. It produces shame, so we are scared to talk to other people honestly because it looks like everyone else’s lives are perfect, when they are just as broken inside as we are.
God called me to write in the midst of my trials, and one of my favorite things about being a writer is the fact that we can connect with and help other writers. Sometimes, this includes getting to read books early to help promote them before the rest of the world gets to read them. I was blessed to be able to join the launch team for K.J. Ramsey’s book This Too Shall Last. I had pre-ordered her book months ago and then saw that her team was open, so it worked out perfectly. The book spoke to me before I knew much about it simply because of the name.
“This Too Shall Last,” not “This Too Shall Pass.” There is a considerable difference between the two phrases, despite there only being two changes in spelling. Our culture preaches that everything considered bad will pass away when in reality, some things won’t go away, and there’s even a possibility they might get worse instead.
K.J. Ramsey is a writer and therapist living with chronic pain who saw the way the church handles pain and suffering and wants to go against our culture and change that.
“Our culture treats suffering like a problem to fix, a blight to hide, or the sad start of a transformation story. We silently, secretly wither under the pressure of living as though suffering is a predicament we can avoid or annihilate by having enough faith or trying harder. When your prayers for healing haven’t been answered, the fog of depression isn’t lifting, your marriage is ending in divorce, or grief won’t go away, it’s easy to feel you’ve failed God or, worse, he’s failed you. If God loves us, why does he allow us to hurt?”https://kjramsey.com/book
That is a question many of us have asked or have been asked. Yet, rarely we seem to come up with a good answer because rarely does our answer sound “Christian” enough. I believe the reality is that we are asking the wrong question.
I love the fact that she is straight forward with the fact that “this book is not a before and after story.” She doesn’t give a story of triumph over pain and suffering or a list of ways to make things better. She is honest, and we learn we can find God in the pain and suffering, as well as in the good times. I know for me, I always tend to feel God more intimately when I am struggling. I find myself both longing for healing, but also worrying I’ll more easily forget God if I am suddenly healed. In the Bible, we find Psalms and other writing about lament, yet we seem to skim over those, not talk about them, and lean into praise instead. We lack the ability to sit with pain. (This idea of not being able to sit with pain was discussed in a Facebook live the launch team had with K.J. and her friend Susannah Swanson.)
K.J. writes, “We’ll find that the pain we wish we could end, the pain most books on suffering promise to turn into a shiny transformation story, is actually the place we can encounter the most grace.” (pg. 24) There are a plethora of honest and fantastic quotes in this book. I could go on for hours and mostly wish I could copy/paste them in here for you to read. Instead, I will give you a couple of my absolute favorite quotes from the book and strongly encourage you to order it for yourself, your struggling friend, your neighbor down the street…it’s not a book about chronic illness or diseases. It’s a book about the true meaning of grace and what it looks like to be human in an honest way, suffering and all.
“When we prod each other to believe God is working all things together for our good, we miss the larger grace we could extend in re-forming our mind’s potential to experience him as trustworthy and present. Our struggle to believe, our striving to succeed, our prideful, solo journeys to look stronger, more competent, and more put together than we are—all are rooted in relational experiences of feeling overlooked, neglected, insignificant, and small.Pg. 74
We see God through our scars.”
“The tacit message in our churches, culture, and relationships is this: success is public; suffering is private. We see so little of each other’s insides that we come to believe we might be the only ones suffering. We hide our wounds behind bandages of our own making while wondering if the hard things lingering in our lives somehow delineate between who belongs in God’s family and who doesn’t. Hiding and hurting, we become divorced from hope and detached from joy.”Pg. 158
“You are never too sick, too needy, too sad, or too odd for God’s kingdom. Church, if Jesus said his power is perfected in weakness, maybe we should spend less energy treating weakness as a problem to fix and more time bearing witness to it with expectation of seeing Christ.”
I hope this book blesses you as much as it has me! To see another book review I have done, click here.