Rachel travels into the city on the train each morning, passing the house she used to live in, and the neighbours who have such a perfect life. She watches the fortunate lovers, those who have everything going for them, everything she really wants. A perfect life. How she envies them. Especially as Rachel’s own life has fallen apart…
We and Rachel soon discover that all is not so perfect though for the lovers she admires. On the outside all looks well, but in reality there is sadness and tension. All is not as it seems, as can often be the case in life. We may imagine that all is well with others, but it may not be the case. Rachel turned to drink when her life fell apart, and things have spiralled down now. With her it’s more obvious there is a problem, she wears her pain on her sleeve now.
The Bible is full of folks like Rachel. Folks who are in difficulty. I used to think it was a manual that featured lots of shiny, happy saints. But whenever I am struggling I discover yet again that so many of the characters in the Book of Life were struggling too. They are often unhappy, troubled, longing for another kind of life, broken even. When King David came home in splendour (in 2 Samuel 6 vv 16-20) his wife looked down at him from the palace and must have looked for all the world as if her life were perfect. In reality she had been battered by life and other people. Her heart was aching and seething with sad bitterness. It seems to me that the Bible is honest about how hard life can be, and also how God is with us in our troubles. Our self-preservation and survival instincts urge us to keep quiet about our problems, but the writers of the Bible encourage us with the assurance that we can be honest with God, we don’t have to pretend with him. The psalms are a collection of songs filled with heart-cries towards God, from folks in trouble who know they need him.
When Jesus began to meet folks his manifesto went something like this, ‘Blessed are the unhappy, the struggling, the restless, because God is with them in their difficulty.’ (Luke 6 vv 20-22) He demonstrated this by befriending the struggling, the downtrodden, the unhappy, and brought a new kind of hope into their lives. Many who had been spiralling down like Rachel, found a new way forward. Not a way out of all their earthly problems, but a godly friend who could help them in their troubles. It’s true that for many of us, when life hits the fan and we realise we are not self-sufficient, then we discover that God is still befriending us, still seeking to help us in this life.