There are plenty of stories about people’s successes, bad dreams turned into fairytale lives and those who overcame great odds and diversity to accomplish greatness. It seems like when you’re down in the dumps, everyone wants to flaunt their success as proof positive that you will turn things around. Everyone wants to pat you on the back and tell you it will be ok, but no one stops to really understand what you’re going through. As you stand surrounded by the rubble of your broken dreams and shattered life, well-meaning friends will try their best to lift you up with encouraging words. But words hold little value as you look upon the twisted mess that used to be your life. The words, though kind, don’t really help all that much in the scheme of things when you’re left standing alone to try to rebuild or salvage what you can from the remnants of what used to be a grand and hopeful life.
Despite all the pep talks and oversimplified encouragements, you are alone among the clutter of thoughts and regrets rolling around in your head. Well-wishers and distant sympathizers are long gone. The rubble that surrounds you is now your only friend. Those who have never seen their dreams collapse don’t understand why you still stand there, awestruck and unable to move. They don’t understand that the rubble is speaking to you: it is teaching you and preparing you for what is next.
Take it all in, examine it, and find the structural flaws that caused the collapse. Right now, all you can see are the damages and the consequences but there among the mess is a hope that only you can see. It can be rebuilt and, this time, even stronger.
Yes, it is a hard and difficult endeavor; most notably, it is a lonely journey back to the top. Encouraging voices are everywhere but helping hands are scarce. The empty words pierce your heart when all you need is someone to walk alongside you and to help you rebuild. The hardest lesson for those who have faced destruction is learning how to be alone. One would expect to have plenty of strong arms to help pull you up, but you quickly learn that even those with the best intentions have little desire to offer more than opinions or what they would call moral support. But who out there is willing to actually get their hands dirty, to sweat next to you, and to feel the pains of a hard day’s labor to help you rebuild?
My wife and I have gone through our share of struggles and we understand what it is like to stand alone calling for help, with only well-wishes and promises of prayers to answer our call. But maybe that is the point of all the losses. For years, I believed that I could rely on others. When that failed, I believed that I could rely on myself. When that failed and I was left with nothing to stand on, I realized my true mistake. It was not I who had been abandoned; it was I who had done the abandoning. How many friends had I left with sterile words? How many people had I ignored in their times of need?
Luckily for me, there is one who understands my loneliness, my fears, and my frustrations. As I looked for ways to rebuild, I realized that the greatest man to ever live had also been abandoned. Jesus has surrounded Himself with friends, loyal followers, and willing and eager disciples. If there was ever anyone who should never fear being left alone, it should be the Son of God. Yet on his day of greatest tribulation, he stood alone. According to the gospels of Mathew and of Mark, Jesus’ arrest scattered the disciples and caused them to flee and hide in fear of getting their hands dirty (Matt. 26:56, Mark 14:50). These men had seen Christ bring the dead back to life, make the blind see, and the lame walk yet the moment that their friend, Master, and Messiah faced real trouble, they fled. Human nature overtook their heart’s desire to be strong and faithful. If this is how Christ was treated, what right do I have to complain?
The lesson here is not that people are flaky or that they can’t be trusted. The lesson is found in the rest of the story, in how Christ acted and followed through on his duty, even when all seemed lost. Jesus stayed focused on the end goal and He knew that his perseverance would win the day. He was committed until the end. Alone and dying, his last words were “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:45-46). But God had not forsaken His Son. Three days later, Christ rose from the dead. He had conquered death. It was something that He had to do alone. Only the Son of God, the true Messiah, had the power and the authority to bear the burden of saving us. Only He could overcome death in order to break the curse of sin and bring hope to the world.
Now, by Christ’s sacrifice and willingness to go alone to a place that no one could follow, we all have the opportunity to turn our rubble into priceless riches. As Christians…wait…as humans, should we not be more willing to help people rebuild? Yes, of course! But for those of us facing hard times, the solution is not to turn to people: the solution is to turn to the only one who truly understands what we are going through. We must rebuild on the rock that is Christ. He suffered all, and he suffered it alone so that we may live an abundant life (John 10:10). This does not mean that we will be wealthy or live without failure. It does mean that we never have to be alone. Because we have an example of ultimate sacrifice, we can put our own rubble in perspective, set aside our own thoughts of success, and realize that the troubles in our lives can be used to teach us how to better understand and care for others around us. I am not going to proclaim that God tore down your life to rebuild it into something greater, but I will always assume that the struggles in my life serve to humble me and open my heart and my mind to the needs of others. Because I know what it is like to reach for a hand that is not there, I will attempt to always have a strong and ready hand for whoever comes my way. More importantly, I will always strive to take that hand reaching out, begging for help, and place it into the much more capable hands of Jesus.