It’s OK To Be Down, But We Need the Help of Others

2 January 2024

6.6 MINS

We all suffer, but how we respond is crucial.

As so often happens to me, several things will coalesce at the same time, and – among other things – it results in a new article. So here it is. This is a piece perhaps most folks should relate to. We all go through hard times. We all can get down. We all can despair. That is a normal part of the human condition in a fallen world.

Several general things can be said about all this. One is this: while all pain and suffering is real and unique to the one going through it, we all suffer and hurt, and there is a comparative element to all this. That is, you will always find some people who are suffering more than you and who are going through far worse things than you are. You will also always find some people who seem to be doing much better than you.

The second general point to make is this: how we cope with the difficulties and struggles we are going through is what really matters. There are good and bad ways to cope. One can turn to drug or alcohol addiction as one way to deal with everything. Obviously, that is not the way to go. And suicide can be the ultimate way some folks deal with their grief, hurt, anger and despair.

With that in mind, several things just happened. Last night, as can often be the case, I was rather downcast. There is a place for that, but one can easily move into pity parties, which are not very helpful. And even if there is legitimate grief and hurt, one needs to keep perspective.

In my case, even the old thoughts of suicide crept in a bit. I was this way often as a non-Christian. But even as a believer, these feelings can sneak in now and then. At such a point, you need to think clearly and soberly. We need to see the bigger picture. And it occurred to me that if nothing else, I am needed, at least for the coming week!

A family member wants me to look after a pet as they go away for a while. So, if I were not here to do this, that would make a difference in the lives of others. Indeed, with my wife of 41 and ½ years now gone – which of course brings its own sorrows and sadness – I do need to be here for the rest of the family. So any thoughts of opting out of life are really selfish and self-centred.

After lots of prayer and thoughts about such things last night, I finally drifted off to sleep. And this morning, some more unexpected things happened which helped me to gain some perspective and see things more clearly. One was this: I was walking the dog, and I bumped into a neighbour I had not seen for a while.

She is one of many neighbours I seek to pray for each day, especially when I walk past their homes. The truth is, it is possible I am the only Christian on the planet praying for these individuals. I hope I am wrong, but in very secular Australia, that could well be the case. So that was another reminder of why I might need to be around for a while.

Then, out of the blue, another gal I know contacted me, saying she had a book she wanted to give me. She dropped it off, and as she left, she said something like, ‘You have been a real cyber theological mentor to me while I was in Bible college.” She seems to have made use of my website often over the years, and it was of some help to her while in school. That was a real encouragement.

Just those few little things last night and this morning were a real reminder and example of Lamentations 3:22-23:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.

I then posted this on social media:

Even God’s great saints can feel quite down and wonder if their lives are really worth anything. Last night I was again musing on such things, but God brought 3 surprising things my way today to show me maybe I do have a real reason to be here, and some good can be done by our lives. At this time of year, think of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and how the suicidal George Bailey needed an angel from heaven to show him what life would have been like if he was not around. We are all needed and we are all of great value.

It was good to get a number of kind responses to that. One gal even said this: “You are valuable & needed. You teach me something in every post you make. Because of you, I try my best to seek God always and to pray for others more fervently and earnestly. You are golden, a true blessing to many, many people. God granted you the gifts you have. Please keep keeping on. Have a happy, blessed New Year!”

Well, that was a real help – even though I do not think I measure up to that in any way!

The Journey of Nightbirde

Let me mention one other person here. In rather marked contrast to myself – the melancholic, often moody, and often morose old guy – is a young Christian who seemed to really know the joy and peace of the Lord, and it certainly showed, even to non-Christians. She might have been just another ordinary Christian struggling with her own massive trials, but an appearance on a big-time TV show changed things for her.

Some of you know about her. I had learned of her story a few years ago and posted on it, at least on social media. I just checked my website, but it seems I had not done a piece on her yet. Well, now I have. I refer to Jane Marczewski, a singer and songwriter who performed under the name Nightbirde.

She was born in Ohio on December 29, 1990. She attended a Christian school in Virginia, and released some albums of her music. What turned her world upside down, as it had for my wife, was learning she had breast cancer. My wife discovered this at age 65 – she, at age 26. And like my wife, it seemed to subside a bit, but then came back with a vengeance.

But unlike so many who struggle with things like cancer, she got a big break to appear on a top-rated American show. One write-up says this about it all:

In June 2021, Nightbirde performed during the 16th season auditions on America’s Got Talent. During her appearance, she offered two inspirational statements: “It’s important that everyone knows I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me… You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” Nightbirde subsequently received a Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell for her performance of her original song “It’s OK”. The song became No. 1 on iTunes and No. 2 trending on YouTube.

In August 2021, before she could compete in the show’s quarterfinal round, Nightbirde withdrew from the competition because of worsening health. Cowell encouraged her not to return to the competition, saying “You don’t need the stress right now.” She appeared via remote broadcast during the live quarterfinals of AGT to express gratitude, and gave an update about her health on August 11, 2021.

The cancer was certainly hardcore, and she was given just a two per cent chance of making it. Yet she could say this: “I have a two per cent chance of survival. But two per cent is not zero per cent. Two per cent is something, and I wish people knew how amazing it is.”

Sadly, Jane’s husband of a few years left her as she was in the midst of her cancer battle. On February 19, 2022, Jane passed away. She was just 31.

Words of course cannot do justice to her and her story. But because she made it onto national television, her story has been told numerous times, and there are plenty of videos out there as well. Can I strongly encourage you to watch this seven-minute video?

Jane did not live to be an older woman. My wife did not make it to her 66th birthday. I am still here at 70. Who knows how long I have to go? Who knows how long any of us have? But we do know this: we will all go through tough times and dark days. How we deal with it all is what really counts.

God is able to sustain us through the most trying of times and the most painful of experiences. Some of us handle it better than others. Jane certainly seemed to handle things much better than most. So we all need to keep on keeping on. And we need to be willing to share our lows, our pains, our weaknesses and our doubts with others.

Yes, we should bring all those things to Christ. But He also works through His people. Therefore, we need to be humble enough to share our faults and struggles with others. And we need to be Christlike enough to pray for and encourage those who are going through hard times.

Even simple things can make such a huge difference in the lives of others. Simply saying things like this can do more than you will ever imagine:

‘I am glad I know you.’
‘You are a champ.’
‘I am glad you are around.’
‘You have so much to offer to others.’
‘You are a blessing.’
‘Keep up the great work.’
‘God bless you.’
‘We need more heroes like you.’

So let us keep going on, and always remember that despite the big smiles and happy demeanour, many people are struggling massively on the inside. Some of you will share that with others, while some will keep it to themselves. We need to be alert to the needs and issues of others.

If a long-standing Christian like me can go through my low patches and times of doubt and despair, then any believer can. So we need each other. As Paul put it in Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo: Trae Patton

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  1. Jillian Stirling 2 January 2024 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Just what I needed. God bless you, Mr Muehlenberg.

  2. Bill Muehlenberg 2 January 2024 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Thanks Jillian.

  3. Stef Mainey 2 January 2024 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    What an incredibly transparent and ‘real’ piece of writing. I thank you so much for your honesty in your time of struggle. My husband lost his brother in a bushfire recently., yet has felt incredibly covered in God’s peace, so much so that people have wondered if he is detached from his grief. He isn’t.

    Your writing so clearly helps us understand that each person’s navigation through sorrow and grief is individual and that there is no ‘one right way’ to do so. I do pray that you will find renewed strength in the days ahead to continue to ‘fight the good fight’ until the LORD calls you home or returns. The Body of Christ needs you.

  4. Dinee Shone 2 January 2024 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Thank you for being REAL & continuing to encourage & give so honestly out of your struggles.

  5. Joyce Michael 2 January 2024 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    ‘Keep up the great work Bill. You have so much to offer to others. I’m a spirit- filled Christian but there are still those difficult times when I cry out to the Lord: “Help my unbelief.”
    I am glad I know your writings and that you are around to help us in our trying times by sharing honestly what you are going through , especially with the loss of your beloved wife.
    ‘You are a champ and have so much to offer to others.’
    I don’t know you personally but receive great encouragement from your writings. Don’t give up. We need more heroes like you, prepared to tell it as it is. Life is hard but God walks alongside us and we are not alone.
    God bless you.

  6. Sue 2 January 2024 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Hi Bill, thank you for your honest account, dealing with grief and sorrow. I honestly can say that I have not handled this issue very well in my life in the last few years. I am challenged to be more thankful to God for a diagnosis in early stage, and clear scans for 3 1/2 years. i’m also challenged to commit my fears and anxieties to the Lord concerning my adult children as they are not walking with Him. I hold onto the promise.” Jesus saves “as a skywriter wrote in the sky one day as I was in deep distress about these things. although our lives seem spent, we have a purpose. While ever we have breath, we live and can praise the Lord, and thank him for every day. this is the legacy we leave for the next generation. whether we live to see the answers to our prayers or not. I have a great grandmother who was radically converted to Christ in the 1860s in a regional country town and she joined the Salvation Army. I believe with all my heart that she prayed and committed her life and the lives of her descendants to the Lord. As a result of that, not all the family are Christians , but, I am a Christian today.

  7. Lorraine Holcroft 3 January 2024 at 7:42 am - Reply

    Thank you, Bill, for sharing with such honesty. I don’t usually leave comments but feel compelled to do so this time.
    As a born again, Spirit-filled Christian, who also loves books and reading, I find comfort and welcome challenge in your writing. Yours is never a glib comment or throwaway line but always thoughtful, considered, balanced and well researched. You write with courage and obvious conviction. Regrettably, these things are becoming more rare in the days in which we live.
    So thank you, brother, for all that you share and the time you give to do so. I am grateful to the Lord for the ministry He has given us through you. You are more valuable and appreciated than you know!

  8. Bill Muehlenberg 3 January 2024 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Many thanks everyone for your kind words.

  9. Sylvia 3 January 2024 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    I so relate to your words Bill. Thankyou for being so candid yet so encouraging. I hadn’t heard of Jane before but wept watching the video you shared. I have been defeating breast cancer since 2019 but I was so blessed to only have early stage in both breasts. Our God truly is just so good and your 3 points have really blessed me! Again thankyou and may our Gracious Lord continue to embrace you and bless you!

  10. Bill Muehlenberg 4 January 2024 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Many thanks Sylvia.

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