One of the curses of mental illnesses is that you feel isolated and alone. We think no one understands what we feel. Noone knows what we’re going through. How could they possibly? Surely no one has ever felt this sad and lonely but me.
The reality is that we don’t live in a vacuum. We may feel, or think, that we are alone, but there are many lives that we touch, and that touch us, every day. We may not be aware of them, but they are there.
And guess what? They probably think they’re alone, too. Everyone has things that are hard for them, problems they’re struggling to get through. If we would be open and honest with our lives instead of trying to show the perfect façade that we think we need to put forth, then we would know that we are not alone in our struggles.
Everyone has challenges! Everyone!! No one on this earth is immune to them.
So, why do we have hard times? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Henry Eyring shared the following experience:
“I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.
He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: ‘I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.’”
Herein lies the answer. These experiences are not just for us. While they do help us grow and learn, they also change us in powerful ways – ways that give us the ability to help others as we could not have before. We understand how people feel in their struggles, because we’ve had those same struggles! That knowledge allows us to change the way we respond when we learn of others’ difficulties.
A few months after my miscarriage, one of my dear friends also miscarried. As soon as I found out, I went to her home. I talked with her a bit, and cried with her. I could feel her heartache as if it was my own, because not long ago I was feeling those same things very acutely. Knowing what she was going through made me more compassionate and able to help the way she needed it.
She needed to lay in bed and rest while her body figured out how to heal itself. But she also had several other children. And laundry. And dishes. And a bathroom that needed cleaning. So I went to work. Another friend and I started doing the regular daily things that needed to be done that she was not capable of. It didn’t seem like much to us, but because I‘d been where she was, I knew these were the things she would feel like she should be doing, but that she couldn’t be doing. I helped her take care of herself by taking care of things she normally did.
When we truly understand what people are going through, it changes how we respond. We can be more loving, kinder, and we know things about those experiences that other people do not. We are now in a unique position to help!
And this is, partly, is why bad things can happen to good people.
It’s not because we’re bad, or because God hates us. It’s because we need these experiences to help us help others. Because we do not live alone in a world full of isolated people. Every day, we are surrounded by people who are struggling every bit as much as we are. Learn from those challenges. Let them make you something better than you were before. Then use that new knowledge and empathy to help others in ways only you can.