After only about an hour at work, I felt a headache coming. Not usually one to feel stress or react physically to it, headaches are very uncommon occurrences in my world. This one started at the base of my neck and then duplicated itself over my eyes. It really wasn’t much – just an ache that made dealing with other nuisances that much more difficult.
Enter nuisance number two: random kids showing up in my room for a class that didn’t include them. It doesn’t really matter why they were there, just the fact that I spent 20 minutes of valuable teaching time redirecting a handful of misdirected middle-schoolers caused my blood pressure to creep up a bit more.
Enter stress number three: a field trip I forgot about – completely. Having discussed it a year ago and decided against it, I failed to communicate that decision to the right people. Hence, a well-timed email asking for the funds needed to pay the deposit. Again, the pressure increases.
Then, just when I think my focus is clearing and I can tackle these petty problems, enter nuisance number 4: moving vehicle meets my parked vehicle. A sweet soul of a friend found me hunkered over my computer, tapping away while creating that required field trip permission letter. Handing me a slip of paper with my license plate number on it, she explained the circumstances of the accident. With that, my head felt near to exploding and my emotions almost got the best of me. Praying for clarity and support, I walked to my classroom to get my keys, fighting back tears.
In his video blog for When Calls the Heart, executive producer Brian Bird reminds viewers that “everything is not as it seems,” explaining that others’ perceptions can hide underlying realities. To others in my work arena, I appeared calm, collected, and in control of myself and the situation. To my students, I was prepared and organized – ready to meet the day. In reality, a layer of stress bubbled just under the surface, and I nearly broke down.
I won’t claim to know what it is like to deal with anything as traumatic as war. After all, a few day-to-day struggles almost bring me to me knees. I won’t claim to remotely understand what real trauma is like. I do know that I have seen people deal with the aftermath – or bury it deep within themselves until it explodes like a volcano of lava and ash, raining down on the loved ones around them.
In last week’s episode, affectionately called “Jack is Back” by Hearties, we saw multiple people attempt to crack through Jack’s stoic exterior to help him unburden his heart of all he has endured. Initially, alone together in the row house, Elizabeth tries to get Jack to share details about the fighting. She knows sharing his experiences will bring them closer, but Jack can’t seem to open up and tell the full story. Brushing it all off as “really bad,” he changes the subject. Later, Lee sells Jack the lumber for his new house at company cost, thanking Jack for being a hero at the same time. However, Jack doesn’t feel like a hero – he has been battered and beaten black and blue by his experiences in the North. He brushes Lee’s commendation off and shies away from the hero’s welcome his friends extend, again casting aside their inquiries and attempts to get him to reveal the depth of his hurt. It wasn’t until this week that Jack finally revealed a significant tragedy he was hiding. With Elizabeth’s pointed questions and her refusal to let him suffer in silence, Jack gained the courage to let her into his world of pain.
By burying the anguish as Jack did, we really do more damage than good. Stuffing it down deep wreaks havoc on your heart and mind until every aspect of your life is tainted. On the outside, you present a false front of peace and acceptance, but inside you are gasping for air, suffocating under the weight of facing the memories alone. Eventually, the facade cracks and you start grabbing at whatever you can find that might assuage the pain and heartache, damaging you even more. The thing is, only one Person can truly provide the healing necessary to move beyond the past: the Holy Spirit. Just as Elizabeth became a source of comfort for Jack and my co-workers have been a source of comfort for me, God will often use others in our lives as a conduit for the Spirit, allowing them to share our burdens and speak His truth over us.
Often, I feel useless in situations like these, where another’s life challenges far outweigh my own. I ask myself, Who am I to encourage them? I’ve been beyond blessed. I’ve never seen what they’ve seen. I’ve never been where they’ve been. Then I remember Acts 10:38 in which “Jesus of Nazareth – with the Holy Spirit and power – went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” God is with me. The Bible tells me I have the power of the Holy Spirit. I am called to be like Jesus. Therefore, based on the work of the Spirit and what He can do through me, I can be the one to share the burden. God can use me to empathize and lend a listening ear to those who are hurting. I simply need to be intentionally following Him.
As Brian shared in his video blog, “Fighting men and women need our empathy…sometimes the most painful wounds are those done to our hearts and minds.” By working through you and in you, the Holy Spirit has the power to heal those you encourage as you intentionally try to draw them out of themselves and create a safe place for them to break down their facade and share their reality. Don’t give up on the hurting, the quiet, or the withdrawn people in your lives. Listen to the Spirit inside you and be a conduit for the Ultimate Comforter to work His miracles.