One of my favorite TV shows is Friends, and if you have ever seen it, you know Joey’s famous line of “How you doing?”
We get asked this question multiple times a day, and we all have a canned response to the question.
Fill in the .
Sadly, this question should open up conversations about the state of our lives with those close to us and give us freedom to express what’s actually going on. Instead, we give a one word answer and get on to talking about trivial conversation matters such as sports, weather, and countless other things.
These are not inherently bad subjects of conversation. Heck, most of my conversations have something to do with sports throughout the day, but if that’s the furthest I get while talking with someone, I’ve missed an incredible opportunity.
C.S. Lewis would say we are “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” We are settling for sticking our feet in the baby pool while God is offering us to explore the depths of the deep end.
We are all craving to know and be known by others. We want someone to care about what is going on in our lives. So when the question of “How are you doing” gets asked, deep down we want to spill it all out. We want someone else to understand the hurt in our heart. The stress in our home. The struggle in our faith. We desire to have others share in these things with us.
Because we were created to walk out our faith in community. The Christian life is not a one man game. It’s a team sport. We need each other.
Paul Tripp captures this idea in his book, Whiter Than Snow, when he says this,
“We weren’t created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we have all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beneath the casual. We defend ourselves when the people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold our struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources God has given us.”
Sadly, we are carrying the weight of our own burdens alone while Scripture tells us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). That’s the beauty of Christian community: we get to do life together. Our lives become, as Tripp put it, community projects. The weight of our burdens gets dispersed across multiple pairs of shoulders, rather than just weighing down on our own.
But for many of us, we are refusing to let others into our mess. Instead, we are trying to cover it up with a fake smile and a response of, “I’m doing fine. How are you?” to make sure they still think our lives are perfect. For some strange reason, we have a hard time sharing our own sinfulness with other sinners.
When we do this, we are missing out on a key process that God has given to be able to grow us and help us through the trials.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in his book Life Together, “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.” I would add to this that not only when we not confess our sins, but even share our burdens with another do we get to experience the peace of God in the reality of the other person.
For this reason, we must begin to see the question of “How are you doing” as an ever present avenue into the hearts and lives of others.
What if we actually answered this question truthfully? Imagine the conversations that would follow.
“How are you doing?”
“Man, honestly life is just hard now. Money is hard to come by, and it’s causing some frustrations that are taking over my life. I feel like all my time is spent worrying, and I’m just struggling.”
Of course, we don’t need to emotionally vomit on strangers, but I’m talking about when someone asks this question when they are expecting a conversation, especially someone you know and trust.
When we open up about our lives, they will open up about theirs. Vulnerability leads to vulnerability. And vulnerability leads to growth.
Maybe it is growth in your own walk, and if so, that will be extremely fruitful. But one area where I think this truth could help us is as we share our faith. One of the greatest testimonies we can share with others and the world is how Jesus changes the way we handle our trials and struggles.
So let’s say a friend of yours (who is not a Christian) asks you, “How are you doing?” You answer in honesty, but then you spin the hurt and pain and share with your friend how you have hope in the situation because of Jesus. How you are able to find peace in the chaos because Jesus offers “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Let us not continue to neglect the community that God has given us to walk in, and the conversations he is offering us to speak into.
Let us begin to share in one another’s burdens.
Let us begin to be honest with one another about “How we are doing.”