Permission to Not Be Okay

Not OkayI was house sitting for a neighbor, on the phone talking to a friend about how to navigate through a plot hole in my story, and all the while breaking inside.

Just the night before I’d been woken up with a phone call from my sister informing me that our dad was back in the hospital after blacking out.

Since this had suddenly become our family’s norm, my mom told me not to worry and to work on my story for school while they ran yet more tests to find out what was wrong.

So while I asked questions with my mouth about how to get my character into their “inciting incident” (which means trouble for them), my heart sought out questions for the trouble we were in.

I sank onto a couch that wasn’t mine, laid my head in my hands, talked writing through my tears with a laptop open to a blank page and a blinking cursor.

It wasn’t just my character that needed help. It was me. Like the laptop in front of me, all I could see was a blank page and a blinking cursor, and I didn’t know what was coming next.

Would my dad be all right? Would my family make it through this? Why couldn’t they find out what was wrong with him? Where was God?

I snapped at my friend for a suggestion that made perfect sense for the character, but that didn’t address what was really bothering me. Ever so gracious, her voice reflected surprise at my outburst, but she gave me another suggestion anyway.

Finally I told the truth: “I don’t know, Britt. I’m just done! I’m sick of trying. I don’t want to write anymore. I don’t have anything left.”

I cringed at the raw truth of what I’d just said. I didn’t have any strength left to fight anymore, in any area. I was as empty as the computer screen in front of me, and I had nothing left to give, not for myself, not for my family, much less for some imaginary characters I was supposed to help navigate through life’s difficulties when I couldn’t even navigate through my own.

I waited for the repercussions. The “pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get over it” pep talk. But to my surprise, my friend only paused for a second before calmly following with the shift in conversation and saying some of the wisest words I’d ever heard: “Okay. Then don’t write.”

I was shocked. But as her simple statement flooded through me, relief and peace did too. The tears flowed more freely, and without all the distractions, my heart finally opened up to God in the truth of the pain and fear I was feeling and how much I needed Him.

The truth of needing permission to not be okay.

To not have it all together. To not be able to write just then. And to know it was okay… to not be okay.

Because I wasn’t. And I was so sick of pretending like I was. Of putting on a smile when I was truly angry and confused at the way my life was going. Of well-meaning but ignorant Christians hearing a bit of what was going on in my life and brightly saying, “Oh, dear. Well, God has it under control! I’ll be praying for you!” And never once following up or asking if my family needed meals or really offering any kind of support at all.

I was so tired of straining. So tired of having hope and faith and having that hope thwarted. Of working so hard to be the good one, to do my best in school, to never show any signs of spiritual or emotional fatigue so I could be strong for my family.

I was not okay. My family was not okay. And at that time, I wondered if this would be the thing that finally broke us. The thing that finally broke me. And it almost did.

But for God’s grace! 

There’s a time and a place for how He delivered us out of that and how, instead of breaking us, it made us stronger and closer than ever before.

But today is not about that. Today is about that moment when things are not okay. When you have nothing left, and for some reason, you’re still straining.

You’re still striving, even as you’re breaking.

Still preaching, even as you’re losing the battle yourself. 

Still smiling, even as you’re suffering.

If that’s you, dear heart, God has a message for you: it’s okay to not be okay. 

This is your permission, love. This is your moment. Whatever it is, let it go. Give it to God. You’re too angry to give Him the pain? All right. Then give Him the anger. Cry it out. Pray out your frustration. It’s Him you’re angry with? Tell Him.

It’s safe in His hands, and He already knows. Give it to Him so that He can heal you and set you free. So He can meet you exactly where you are, the way you are, and run to you with arms stretched wide.

He loves you, dear heart. He loves you so much. 

None of us are okay. It’s why Jesus had to come.

After some Pharisees asked why Jesus hung out with such scum as tax collectors and sinners, He says this in Mark 2:17: “When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.'”

Jesus can’t do His thing until we let Him. Unless we let down the mask and say, “Lord, I’m sick. I need help. I’m not okay, and I know you’re the only One who can help me.”

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He operates in truth, and we need to as well if we want to operate in the freedom that comes from truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32.)

Even if that truth means admitting we’re a mess. 

Because we are. All of us are in the midst of holy grace.

But in the light of holy grace… wounds brought to the Healer of broken hearts can restore all.

Tears can become prayers, and a hallelujah born from the pain can be the most beautiful and powerful praise song ever heard.

His arms are available to you. His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness abounding.

We are not and never will be enough, but His grace? Oh, dear child, His grace is more than enough.

Be still for just a moment. Listen to His heart for you, the song He sings over you, the plans He has to prosper you and not to harm you. Remember His blood poured out for you, the price He paid for you, the nails He took for you, and know–know dear child of God once and for all that it is okay, to not be okay.

Because in His name it is finished, but for right now…

Four days behind schedule, Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus and saw his sisters mourning his death. Though He knew in just minutes He’d raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept.

Jesus wept. He knew the outcome. He knew life would come again. He had faith.

But He also knew one other, very important truth…

It’s okay. 

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