Hurting Christians know how to hide behind a smile. They act just as skillfully as those in Hollywood. We need to work on getting past the smile.
I think some Christians are masterful pretenders. I don’t mean that those who profess Christ aren’t genuine, though that can be the case, but that believers put on painstaking performances…like celebrities who act in front of the camera for a living. And Sunday seems to be the apex of it all, week after week. It has always fascinated me how that the church is meant in part to be a clinic for hurting sinners (i.e. you and I), yet the believers within do their best to keep all [their woes] locked in the closet, and especially on the Lord’s day. It’s as though presenting a seemingly ordered, difficulty-free life glorifies God and serves the body of Christ. My point? Well, when is the last time you can vividly recall someone walking through the doors of your local church teary-eyed? Or, when do you remember the last time a Christian that seems to smile all the time, doing the very opposite? I have a suggestion for you believer; don’t always buy the smile.
I’m not remotely suggesting though that every smiling Christian is faking it. That would be an utterly foolish assumption. Many followers of Jesus Christ smile from the heart, wonderfully contributing to the body’s edification. I’m also not at all suggesting that it’s wrong for a believer to keep hurt under wraps, because it’s perfectly possible to be exercise biblical joy in the midst of hurt. The church absolutely needs Christians who are externally joyful because they’re internally joyful, no matter what’s going on. And not to mention, a smile just has a blessed effect on the mind. Fellowship would be painfully miserable if everyone walked around with tear-filled faces all the time.
Nonetheless, it happens to be a hunch of mine that some Christians are smiling to ultimately mask the hurts and struggles that tear them up on the inside, and their minds are torn away from real fellowship and worship as a result. I believe we need to be very sensitive to this reality, and on the lookout for such brothers and sisters. Why? There are endless opportunities to be an indescribable blessing to a believer who’s just plain hurting and distracted. Of course nothing you’re about to read ahead gets off the ground if said believer(s) would rather go it alone, but let’s assume otherwise for the sake of argument.
Of course we need not hunt down our brethren, take them aside to an interrogation room, and give them the fifth degree in order to determine whether or not they’re [spiritually] downtrodden. That [ridiculous idea] won’t do anything but create more problems for the anguished believer, and perhaps permanently close the door to encouragement that you were looking to dash through.
Peoples’ complicated problems must be dealt with gently and lovingly, but what I suggest we do isn’t complicated, though we manage to make it so. What should we do? Be genuine in initiating and building relationships with those Christians that we suspect are hiding hurt behind their smiles. Purpose to invite such Christians to join you in joyful worship, as worship may be a believer’s only respite from whatever hurts they’re dealing with. Though the mere suspicion of hidden hurt shouldn’t altogether be what compels us toward relationships and corporate worship. The goal again isn’t to walk around with a magnifying glass and brand every faker. After all, you could be one of those Christians [faking it], as could I, and we would close ourselves off pretty quickly if we sensed someone doing that. That’s why being genuine and sensitive is key here, but this is no guarantee that a relationship develops or that the pretending ceases. If you desire to take up this ministry of reaching beyond the smile, you best be prepared to bear some tough burdens. Yet such a pursuit is a very noble one that would ultimately please and glorify your Savior, the ultimate Bearer of burdens. We ought not be afraid to get messy. People are messy, therefore relationships with them tend to be the same.
This all may seem like a giant “duh” to you, but my concern is that too many of us allow fear, timidity, and selfishness to prevent themselves from being a blessing to others in this way. Jesus Christ didn’t die so His people would gather as a bunch of redeemed actors and actresses. He knew we would go through many trials and tribulations, and wants us to do everything we’re able [by His power] to serve as immense encouragements to one another! This is one significant way that we grow together as a body. Christ never wanted us to put a smile, a dam of sorts, in front of the rushing waters of our increasingly crushing burdens. Eventually it will collapse, and by then who knows what the spiritual ramifications will be? Please allow Romans 12:15 and I Thessalonians 5:11, just a couple applicable verses, to challenge you to not always buy the smile. Would you dare enter the muck of another Christian’s spiritual difficulties? If so…God will be honored, that hurting child of God may eventually smile from the heart again…grow in leaps and bounds, and you will be eternally blessed! It’s a win-win for all!