Nobody Knows the Trouble

I was telling a friend that I think that if any five of us were standing around the table, and we had our problems in our hands and put them all–ALL of them– out on the table for each other to see, we wouldn’t choose anyone else’s problems. We’d take back our own again.

She wasn’t so sure. She said she wished she had her friend’s problem instead of her own that were consuming her energy.

It made me think of other scenerios. A girl complaining to her friends that she had no free day to pack for her 2 week vacation to a Greek island. A bride trying on her dress and saying that her shoes weren’t what she really wanted. A homeowner complaining to a homeless man about the heating bill. To someone on the sidelines looking in, these all look like good problems to have.

I maintain that if we knew everything–everything– about our friends’ lives, and saw all their troubles, we would take back our own.  But I am young and my life is good. I have problems and issues that make me sad and cry, or that I tell to only the closest to me, but most days, my life isn’t defined by problems.  When I look at my friends who appear to have beautiful, enviable stories, I am jealous for half a second before I remember that they have problems that would have completely derailed me.

There are surely people who wouldn’t take back their own troubles if they were out on a table. I think of the widow raising eight children. My lady friends whose husbands have betrayed them on every level, week after week, year after year. The beautiful girl with cancer, another friend with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Life is not fair and trouble is spread wide and without respect to age or talent or wealth.

Friends walk with, support, believe in each other. So her problems look silly or petty to you? They might be, but to her they’re huge. It’s really ugly when friends get together and compare their troubles and try to impress each other with the amounts of pain each is suffering. Sometimes we can give each other a splash of reality or perspective but most times it’s best to listen and not say much. So I’d love to be going to a Greek island, and I wouldn’t complain about having little time to get ready for it.  But, well…

There’s a difference between stuff you complain about and serious life experiences.  Maybe I’m naive, but isn’t it generally true that at the end of the day we’d still choose our own troubles?

3 thoughts on “Nobody Knows the Trouble

  1. I agree with you. We go almost every year to a retreat in PA (the Physically Challenged Seminar at Penn Valley). We started going years ago when our blind son was young. There are people there with all sorts of serious physical handicaps and I’ve heard many of them say that when the weekend is over they are ready to go back home with theirs. And this weekend isn’t a big “comparing notes pity party”, either. It’s one of the most encouraging things we go to all year. I think one reason we’d choose our own troubles is that we’ve been given grace for our own, (please give me just a little more Lord!) and not someone else’s. And I feel sorry for those that complain about things like a flat tires when they have no idea what real life experiences (real trouble) are like. I feel like letting the air out of their tires just for spite! Well written post!

    • I understand the feeling of spite…it would seem that some could use a valid reason to complain. I think you’re right, that we’re given grace suited for the weights we are asked to carry.

  2. Lovely post friend! I have been on a journey the last year or two of remembering that my friends really don’t need to hear that I worked a ten hour shift today or that my vehicle just doesn’t do well in gas mileage. But, when others share their similar sorrows with me I want to be interested and listen while remembering that what is important right now is for me to be there and encourage, not bog them down with my “greater than” petty issue.
    Thank you for your encouragement!

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