The college application process has changed greatly in the last thirty years. No need to use a typewriter to fill out individual applications to each school or for each scholarship like I did. Obviously, the whole process is now completed via computers and a common application that allows the student to fill out one application for most universities. Once they’re accepted, students use portals to link to the universities to manage housing, financial aid, etc. It’s all very fancy when it works, but, of course, technology has its glitches. When my daughter Riley tried to access a college portal the other night, the site wouldn’t let her in. She sighed loudly and said, “it’s temporarily going through something.” I laughed because she’d acted like the portal was a person who was having a rough go of it.
But her comment made me think about when I have tough times. I often forget that on most occasions, the circumstances are temporary and will pass quickly. While I realize that some situations present complicated problems that last for a long time, many are short lived. But I tend to catastrophize and think the temporary emotions will remain. Instead of allowing myself to feel the emotions so that I can get through them, my instinct is to fight the feelings off. Instead of having a good cry or just giving myself an hour to wallow, I start overanalyzing, trying to figure out why I’m upset with the goal of fixing the problem. In the movie Frozen, Elsa sings, “conceal, don’t feel.” My initial reaction to hard emotions is “don’t feel, fix it,” usually prolonging the situation.
On top of my efforts to fix the circumstances and deflect the uncomfortable feelings, I often act like the computer portal when it’s not working in that I won’t necessarily let anyone in. Sometimes, I’ve told my close friends after I’ve recovered from a difficult season. In response, they’ve asked “why didn’t you tell us?” I don’t always know the answer, maybe it’s embarrassment or my belief that no one else can help. But when I’m more rational, I know that my friends offer a source of support when I tell them I’m having a hard time. That they would come to my aid if I even hinted at a problem.
Recently, one of my close friends said to another close friend that we needed to mark our calendars for a summer outing because they know I get down for a few days when my kids go to sleepaway camp. Their proposal comes from our shared history and a girls’ trip that helped me through the sadness after a previous camp send off. Because they know me and want to encourage me, they are already planning to help me at a time when they know I’ll need them. But if I hadn’t told them that their presence had helped me, they wouldn’t know and wouldn’t be able to support me in the future.
God does not want us to isolate when we feel down. We must remember that God provides many resources, including people to help us when we are in need. If we do not let people in, if we block them so they cannot reach us, we also prevent God from providing comfort and help. In Jesus’ day, a group cut a hole in a roof so they could lower their disabled friend down to where Jesus was teaching. If the man had told his friends not to bother, that he was fine, that he didn’t want to trouble them, he would’ve missed out on Jesus’ help and grace (Luke 17-26). We should feel emboldened to ask for help from our friends.
We all have times when we’re temporarily going through something, but we don’t have to go through it alone. When we open up and ask the people around us for help, we allow them to rise to the occasion and in turn, share God’s love and comfort with us on God’s behalf.