Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Burden of the Blessed Life

Survivor's guilt

Have you ever felt guilty for being blessed in a way that many others aren't?  Perhaps you've experienced a life-threatening situation and came out unscathed, while others suffered less desirable fates.  Maybe you've been healed of a sickness that many are still suffering from.

Many times in life, we find ourselves sitting in the good seats watching, often without any ability to help, while our friends and loved ones walk through very tough times.

This is where I'm finding myself lately.

I've got parents divorcing.  I've got extended family divorcing.  I've got good friends divorcing. Even more heartbreaking, a dear friend just lost a much prayed for baby to miscarriage.

My soul hurts for these people that I love---that I have relationship with---that are going through such a very difficult time.

What can I do to help?  I can't save a marriage...or a baby.  I want to pray.  But have I been?  Not as much as I should be.

To be honest, I'm experiencing wallowing in survivor's guilt.

Of course, everyone's got problems;  but when I look at the petty things I'm walking through right now, in light of what's happening to those around me, I see there's just no comparison.

Out of my 10 pregnancies, I've only lost one to miscarriage.  Losing that baby five years ago was the most difficult thing I've ever gone through---but I've been healed--and I think 1 for 10 is pretty good odds.  The baby I'm currently carrying is, as far as we know, healthy and strong.  So why, instead of thanking God for blessing our children with health, do I feel such guilt that they're healthy?

As for my marriage, Jamie and I just celebrated 14 years!  We've known each other since we were 13 and have been very best friends since we were 16.  We have walked through all kinds of heart breaking situations together.  At times, it's been a really rough road---but we're together.  Neither one of us is going anywhere---nor can we fathom anything that would be big enough to separate us.  Why then, instead of glorying in that, instead of thanking God every day for holding us together, do I harbor such fear that this beautiful bubble that I live in is going to pop any day now?

I feel helpless to offer prayers, advice, encouragement---especially in the situations where my loved ones are, (in some cases) so easily willing to end their marriages.  Marriages that, in each instance, began in a church, asking for God's sustained blessing.  I feel guilty talking about my blissful marriage when these others are having such a hard time.  I feel guilty sharing happy milestones of my pregnancy when one of my dearest friends is mourning the loss of her own.

Can a person who is living the blessed life really imagine themselves in the shoes of their hurting loved ones?  I say yes.  Absolutely.

The reason it's called survivor's guilt is because those who feel it are the ones who've survived.  We've spent time in the same den of lions but somehow, by the grace of God, we've come out in tact.  However, unlike the Biblical Daniel, who came out of the lion's den untouched, we survivors have not come out without scars. 

SO many people tell me that I have the perfect life.  Many see me as having a perfect marriage. Perfect children.  They say I am doing everything right to ensure a "til death do us part" marriage and children who grow into godly, law-abiding adults.  As flattering as that is, it's not true.  Nothing, outside of God and his plan, is perfect.  As much as I desire those wonderful outcomes, I'm human---as is the rest of my family---and we all make mistakes that tarnish our lives and leave scars.

The reason that people probably see me this way is that I don't share my personal problems publicly.  When I have issues with my husband or kids, I go to them.  Not to Facebook.  Very rarely do I share a personal issue with my own mother---other than that, there's no one that hears our private junk.  I am, however, very quick to praise my husband or brag on my kids.  I want others to see them in the best light possible.  Would I want my husband or kids broadcasting my flaws outside these four walls?

The problem with all of this, and the burden of the blessed life, is that others think I can't relate.  They think I have this "perfect life" because I have steered away from every possible sinful thing out there.  They think that devastating circumstances have passed me by.

The truth of that matter is very far from this thinking.  I am very much able to offer support, advice, sympathy.  I can very much relate because I have survived.  More than that, I've been healed of the hurt that many of my loved ones are experiencing right now.

I remember the devastation, self-blame, anger, and fear that come with the loss of a child.

I know the feelings of confusion, hard-heartedness, and inadequacy that follow a betrayal.

I have thought the grass was greener in someone else's pasture and have even tested the theory to find it sorely lacking in substance.  More than once.

I recognize the scary cycles of an addiction that seems impossible to overcome.  I'm still cycling.

I've experienced a depression so deep that leaving my family or even ending my life seemed like very logical answers.  Several years of it, in fact.

Many people think that those who are living the "good life" are unable to be of any assistance to them when they're going through tough times.  They think that we live in some la-la land and can't relate.  They're sick of hearing, "well, just trust God and it'll all work out fine."  (In reality, we should all definitely trust God---but that doesn't mean it's all going to work out fine.  Sometimes it all falls apart and it really sucks...but he's still worthy of our trust.)

While there are many who will read this and either relate to where I'm coming from or will roll their eyes and say, "she has NO idea", what I really want is for those who know me to read it and understand something.  I can relate.  I want to help you. 

When you're going through hard stuff, don't be so quick to make assumptions about the people around you who want to help.  There's a reason they've survived and their survival skills might be just what you need.


  1. more importantly you have been there for me!!! It means so much when someone grieves with you and is deeply saddened by your loss. Its a tough burden to bear when those around you are hurting...

  2. Hi Sarah,
    how brave of you to open your heart and share that you have had 'bad times' too.
    I pray the people you want to reach out to, let you into their lives.
    From personal experience I can tell you my Husband's family and most of my family had no idea that for years life was pretty miserable for me and our children because of my husband's drinking. Like you I only spoke about the good things...and there were many good things .... My Husband has not drunk alcohol for over 20 years now and when our families asked why he no longer drank...we told them the truth and the support we received was wonderful. Everyone said they wished I had said something earlier and they would have tried to help..even if all they could do was listen.
    I pray that God's peace will help you through this tough time.
    I know I have gone on a bit here and if you want to delete my comment I'll understand.
    I have googled up a poem called "Wait" that my sister told me about. It might Give you some comfort. It helped me.
    God Bless
    Barb from Australia

  3. Hello Mrs. Coller,

    I popped over from Mrs. White's blog and I'm so glad I did. I can relate to your post.
    I pray that as you allow the Lord to work in your heart to overcome survivor's guilt, that in His timing He brings opportunity to share your insight, compassion and wisdom with those in need whom you care about so deeply. I pray it is offered and given to those who are ready, willing and capable of receiving it.
    Thank you for sharing your heart today.
    In Christ,

  4. I pray that your guilt that you feel will be replaced with gratefulness for the blessings that the Lord has given you and your family. He has blessed you with a tender and sensitive heart and He knows that you only want what is good for all you know and pray for. God bless you. Thank you for this beautifully written post.


  5. Hello Sweet Sarah, Bless your heart. Life is just hard for many and it's hard for all at one time or another. The older I get, the more I've come to that conclusion. Nonetheless, we have the hope of a future in heaven and that is worth so much. I know you agree. Good story, Sarah. Keep being there for people. That's your ministry as well as your family.
    And thanks for stopping by my blog. I always appreciate your comments of encouragement.
    God bless,
    Coleen in Ukraine

  6. Thought I already was, but I"m following you now. Hope you'll follow on mine if you are not already.
    Blessings on your day, Coleen


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Mrs. Sarah Coller

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