My smartphone has a crack in the screen1. Despite being in a case, it probably fell onto the pavement one too many times. The screen wasn’t shattered, but a little crack started at the top, a little right of center. Over time, it worked its way down and to the left, until it hit the right-hand side of the screen.
What is good about this particular fracture mode (if any good can be found in a broken screen) is that it is clean through the glass, and perpendicular to the surface. So, most days, I can go about using my phone without even noticing the break, because it is essentially invisible when viewed straight on.
When looked at from an angle, though, it’s pretty clear that I have a phone with a cracked screen. The defect catches the light and traces its way through my field of view.
Just like a cracked smartphone screen, other people may look pretty good from some angles. When we look at them straight on (that is, the face that they put on in public), they look just fine. Sure, they might be worn down a bit, and have a few scratches, but those are just the signs we all wear to show that we have lived on this fallen earth for a while – proof that we’ve gotten through life so far, mostly intact.
Behind that, though, I’ve learned that there are often a lot of hurts going on. The struggles that stay inside because they are too embarrassing to reveal. The pain that – if it were shared – might make us sound like complainers. The tough decisions that we believe we have to make alone.
Sometimes, those around us have other people that they can lean on. These are the trusted souls who can view their lives from another angle – whether family, close friends, or a counselor – and see the little cracks running through their lives.
In different cases, though, we are the ones that have been placed in others’ lives, to witness the breaking points that others do not see, and to help struggling hearts hold together when things are coming apart. If this sounds like something that you need a psychology degree for (although there is definitely a time and place to seek counseling), the fact is that we can probably offer help to people in this situation, just as we are. For instance:
- Can we offer a listening ear that can be trusted?
- Can we agree to ask questions to help someone on the path to recovery?
- Can we share that we struggle, too (even if in different ways)?
- Can we suggest practical solutions for others, providing real answers to what they need, without being judgmental?
- Can we help others just not feel so alone?
While we may sometimes be called to simply lead others to someone else (or Someone Else) who is better equipped to help out, there is great reward in guiding people away from bad paths. Consider this statement from the book of James:
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20 NASB
These hidden pains or sorrows also remind us that we’re not doing quite as well as our replies to others’ questions about our lives might suggest, when we say that we are “fine” (or, if we’re American, we say that we are “busy”).
But, it’s ok. If you feel that you’ve lost your edge, seek support from others, and find a few trusted friends (or even just one) who you can allow to evaluate your life from all angles. Let the dulling effect of your challenges be sharpened by others, so that you will be more effective – even if the challenges persist.
Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17 NASB
A little earlier in the fifth chapter of James (the same chapter referenced above), James offers specific, practical suggestions for dealing with challenging situations like this.
Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
James 5:13-16 NASB
Don’t let a cracked screen – or a broken life – keep you from moving forward. Whether working by Himself, through you, or through others, the Great Physician can repair anything.
- I [Don’t] Know How You Feel
- The Most Excellent Ministry of Knowing When to Keep Our Mouths Shut
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
- Ready for a Kind Word
- That was as of the time of the original writing of this article. I’ve since upgraded to a new phone, and while it’s not one of those expensive flagship models, it at least doesn’t have a cracked screen. ↩