Suffering Alone With Others

“It’s good to know that I’m not alone,” were words that I had heard a few different ways from a few different people this week.  The sentiment of it is true:  as we live our lives, we like to know that we are not the only ones who are going through the thing in which we are going through.  This week, I worked with a student who was struggling with severe depression and unhealthy thoughts, and after a series of worrisome events, I had to approach him and his mother, recommending that he get professional and immediate help.  As the words were leaving my mouth, I could see him tensing up at the thought of the unknown.  To calm him down, I told him that he was not the first to be sitting in this position with me, and that he wasn’t going through anything that others hadn’t already done before him.  The counselor present told him that in fact there was a large population in the school who had experienced a similar situation to him, to which a look of relief washed over his face.  The thought of going through the next few steps of his treatment was absolutely frightening to him, but to know that there were others who had gone through it and come out the other end alright was very comforting.  When we suffer, we often times feel as if there is something wrong with us as individuals because we think we are the only ones experiencing this issue: we feel completely isolated from everyone, thinking that we are the only ones who feel this way.  There is one bit of advice that I make sure to give my students year after year, advice that I wish someone had told me when I was younger:  whatever it is you are going through, whatever you are experiencing, whatever it is that you are suffering with, you are not alone.  Everyone else seems to have it together, yet on the inside we are an absolute mess.  What I didn’t know then that I know now is that everyone is feeling that way on the inside: some are just better at hiding it than others.  My students lay awake at night, staring at the ceiling, thinking that they are alone in their struggle to be thin, popular, smart, athletic, whatever, or that they are the only ones who feel alone, depressed, ridiculed, ashamed, or invalidated.  But what they are going through is what people go through every day before them and after them, and at all ages.  Ecclesiastes 1.9 states that: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  Everything that life throws at us has already been thrown at others.  There is nothing that is happening that hasn’t happened already, and a lot of it already happened to Christ when he walked the Earth.  God knows what you are going through because it isn’t anything that others haven’t already gone through before you.  So what does it mean if others have suffered similarly to you?  It means that others, and God, understand and sympathize with your struggles.  It means that when you struggle, God feels what you feel and is looking down on you with the knowledge of what it is like for you.  It also means that there is hope, as many have made it through these struggles.  This week, as you struggle, know that you are not alone.  Know that what you are dealing with is nothing new, and that Christ suffers with you because He understands what you are going through.  You are not alone.  Amen.

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