The Christian “F” Word

13 06 2013

Barely making eye contact, Johanna* quickly looked past me as I entered the building and asked, “How are you?”

Slowing down a bit, I responded, “I’m dying of cancer.”

She never batted an eye. “Oh, that’s nice, dear.”


(I’m not dying of cancer – just so you know!)

This was part of an experiment I’ve been running, curious to see how people would respond. Most of the time, when folks ask “How are you?” they’re doing the “polite” thing. Very few actually give a rip.

On the street, polite disinterest is to be expected. When I find the sense of “don’t bother me with the details, just give me the standard answer” among my church family members, I am saddened. Because we have the “mind of Christ,” His tender-hearted care must be evident, one would think.

My goal is to become genuine. Therefore, if I don’t care, I don’t want to ask! (…and there are some whom I don’t ask. They wallow in their woes – and like it that way. I’m not being harsh – I used to be one of them!)

Sometimes, though, it’s not the “asker’s” fault…

With a face so long she could have stepped on it, a Christian sister entered the foyer on Sunday.

“Hi, Claire*! How’s it going?” I asked, genuinely concerned.

Then she dropped the bomb…the Christian “F” word…

Fine,” said with a plastic smile.

“Wait, Claire. Let me try this again…How is your soul?”

What came next left me astonished. She ¬†unloaded the saddest story I’d heard in a while.

By the time she was finished, she was in tears, and so was I.

“Whoa! Let’s talk to our Father about this,” I said, and led her to a quiet corner.” I prayed for her, and then we went into the sanctuary for worship.

By the time church was over, her plastic smile was replaced with a real one. She gave my hand a squeeze and whispered, “Thanks.”

Nothing had changed about Claire’s circumstances, but she’d been given the opportunity to have someone come alongside and bear the burden with her.

(*These are not their real names.)

The question we ask makes a huge difference. I have yet to be given the “F” word when I ask a person, “How’s your soul?” Every time, they stop and think about it. The replies have been everything from “My soul is good,” or “To be honest, I’ve been cranky lately,” to “I’m not doing well at all. I’m about ready to give up.”

Try it for yourself…but only if you’re prepared to invest time in others!

How often we miss an opening to encourage one another when we ask the “standard” question, “How are you doing?”

…and how many times we let the chance to have someone lift us up in prayer or be strengthened by someone when we respond to this routine question with…

…the Christian “F” Word!