Is your life pretty good?
For many of us, the answer depends. Are there starving children in Africa? Then yes. Yes, my life must be pretty good.
Starving children in Africa are the very reasons most of us have settled and we haven't even realized it. Because every time things get hard, every time we long for more, every time we ache for things to be different, there is usually someone who, well-intentioned, reminds us there are starving children in Africa and well, things don't seem so bad after all.
Except they still are.
The flaw in the starving children of Africa theory is that the knowledge of the presence of worse transforms bad into good. It makes brokenness seem whole. It makes hard times seem easy.
But times are still hard.
We live our lives by comparison, and this sets up a false measure. I am blessed if my life is more bountiful than yours. I am at peace if I have less turmoil than yours. I can do anything with one open door if you don't even have a window cracked right now. The measure of my life becomes a measure against yours, which means we are frequently pushing our very real feelings aside, refusing to validate any pain we may feel, refusing to ask questions because our ache doesn't measure up to the pain someone else must certainly be feeling.
There are people in this world who will even compare brokenness, and if they find that their brokenness isn't the worst in the world, they don't feel validated to feel broken at all. Have you heard some of this? I have heard women say, "Well, I was only raped by a stranger. There are people out there who had to live with an abuser for a lot of years." Women who say, "My husband has a bit of a sharp tongue, but there are wives out there whose husbands beat them, so I'm really pretty lucky." My life has given me the privilege of talking with (mostly) women whose lives are broken by some measure or another and it astonishes me how many women will instantly stop talking when someone else's brokenness seems so much greater than their own.
Let's take this out of the human realm for a minute. Let's say the belt breaks on your car and you're stranded on the side of the highway. You're ready to hike it to the nearest pit stop when along your way, you find another motorist whose tire has totally blown out, and he doesn't have a spare. Do you feel...less stranded? More stranded? What if his transmission's partially dropped out and his car won't even start? Are you suddenly better off because his situation is less fixable? You're still stranded.
What if you're diagnosed with terminal cancer? Pancreatic, let's say. And while you're in the hospital trying a chemo that doesn't seem like it will work, you meet another terminal cancer patient with, say, a brain tumor that is destroying her personality, her memory, her ability to relate to her world. Are you less terminal now? Does your situation seem less bleak? You're both going to die.
Listen, I get it. It's supposed to be gratefulness. It's supposed to be thankfulness. It's that old idea we have that we should be thankful for all we've got and count our blessings and blah blah blah. But the standard for whether you're blessed or not, the measure by which you count your life, is not what's happening to your friend, your neighbor, the guy across town, or starving children in Africa. The measure by which you count your life is God's created intent for you. If your life falls short of everything God had for it, your life is broken. It's not more or less broken because someone else has trouble. It's not more or less broken because it seems to be a little thing or a bigger thing.
We can't let starving children in Africa be a comfort to our lives. Do you know how perverse that is? Is your life really better because children are dying without enough to eat? OF COURSE NOT.
Your life is broken when it falls short of all that God desires it to be, whether that's because of sin or failure or doubt or fear or.... Your heart is broken when it can't bear the weight of what this world does to you, whether it's the weight of a feather or the weight of a stone. And we're only going to begin to understand brokenness when we see it for what it is. We're only going to start healing our wounds when we stop holding them up to the atrocities around us and instead, confess plainly the agony inside us.
It's okay to be hurt. It's okay to be broken. This world is a broken place; you probably know that by now. You have no more, and no less, of a right to be broken than anyone else, whether it's a little thing or a big thing. We have to stop worrying where our hurt measures up and start taking every bit of it back to the God who longs for a world without hurt at all. A God who can heal, and not simply soothe, the ache. Only then will we begin to touch the hurt. Ours, our friends', our neighbors' and the starving children's in Africa.
I don't know what's causing you pain. I'm betting it's something. I don't know what's broken in your life, but I'm sure there are a few things. You know what? It's okay. It's a place where your life doesn't measure up to all that God wants to do with it. That sucks. That hurts. Take it for what it is. And take it to God. Invite His healing into your wounded place. Pour out your heart. Let yourself ache for the fullness of all He intended for you, and don't feel guilty about it. Your life is not a comparison to the brokenness around you.
It's measured against all it was ever meant to be.
And whatever your life is today in this fallen world, it's probably not that. It's probably not all it was ever meant to be. That's the nature of brokenness.
Starving children in Africa or no starving children in Africa.
*Please do not neglect or forget the starving children in Africa. There are many wonderful organizations that make it easy to provide aid for these kids, including medical treatment, education, and yes, food.
There are also many wonderful organizations that can help you begin to address the brokenness in your own life. If you need help finding a good one, shoot me an email or find me on social media or comment below. Talk to your pastor. Start asking.