In beautiful soprano she sang along with the melody. Everyone sitting in church near Elizabeth was blessed by her gifted vocals. Yet she sang the words without hearing them. Her thoughts were far from the church service or the message being proclaimed that day.
Inside, her mind was reeling. She was counting the days until the next payday and adding her family’s bills in her head. “It’s not going to work,” she scolded herself. “I’m not going to make it, Lord. I need a miracle!”
From outward appearances, things seemed to be going well for Elizabeth and her family, but no one knew how badly they were in debt. Even her husband didn’t know the full extent of their financial troubles. They didn’t live extravagantly, yet they still seemed to live beyond their means. Even with two incomes, they lived paycheck to paycheck.
It was a constant battle for Elizabeth. She dreaded going to the mailbox. She hated the sound of the phone when it rang. Everyday she feared there would be disconnect notices tucked in her front door.
She had too much pride to let anyone know their circumstances. Even as the collection plate passed, she prayed the check she wrote would clear. She had no one to turn to for help; no one knew what she was like behind the facade. Everyone thought Elizabeth’s life was perfect.
* * * * *
“Her life is so perfect!” Robin thought as she watched Elizabeth sing in church that day. “Why can’t I be good like her?”
Robin blinked back the tears as the song ended and prayer began. She didn’t dare let those tears roll down her cheeks and smear her carefully applied make-up. She couldn’t let anyone see the ugly bags under her eyes that she’d tried so hard to hide.
“Why can’t I conquer this one thing?” She prayed silently. “Why won’t you give me the strength I need to stop taking those pills?”
Robin’s heart was full of fear. If her husband knew she started taking prescription pain medicine again he’d leave her and take the children. She knew her own prayers were feeble and inadequate. She longed to ask for someone to pray for her, but she was too afraid to ask for help. So she suffered in silent agony, hating herself and the pills. Her life had become a secret, personal hell.
Her eyes scanned the congregation, “What would they think of me,” she wondered, “If they knew my ugly secret?”
* * * * *
“She’s so pretty,” Linda thought as she admired Robin from the back of the church. She wished she could have friends like her and Elizabeth. They seemed to have it all together.
Loneliness was a constant battle in Linda’s life. Her husband refused to come to church so she sat alone every week. The closer she grew in her relationship with God, the further her non-Christian friends withdrew. While she was happy with her decision to be a stay at home mom, she missed the camaraderie and friendships she’d once had in the workforce. She loved God her husband and her son, but something was missing.
It seemed to Linda that everyone had already found their place in life except her. Cliques of female friendships had already developed before she’d started coming to church. “No one needs me,” she thought to herself. “I don’t have anything to offer these beautiful women with their nice clothes and perfect lives.”
Heartsick, Linda’s downcast eyes caught something interesting in the Church bulletin; a Women’s Bible Study. For a brief moment, she almost reached into her purse for a pen to sign up, but her low self esteem got in the way. “No…” she convinced herself, “I can’t take a Bible Study! I don’t know enough and everyone would laugh at me.” She looked again at the other women in the church and set down her bulletin. “These women don’t have problems like I do.”
* * * * *
When the service ended, they each kept their facades and went their separate ways. They are so different, yet so very much the same.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." James 5:16a (NIV)
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