The woman in the purple dress said, “My eight-year-old granddaughter was diagnosed with cancer this week—and I wanted a drink so bad.” The room fell silent. Suddenly I could feel my heart stand at attention. It was like a queen had entered, speaking to her most trusted advisers. We all listened close.
Tears fell down her face as she shared her story. When she finished, I looked across the room at an older man shaking his head in the corner. He whispered in an honorable tone, “That’s horrible, just horrible—but I’m glad you didn’t take a drink.”
It was my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. About twenty-five individuals sat along the edge of the room. The space had tile floors and bare walls (except for a clock and the Twelve Steps posted behind the desk). The room smelled like coffee and cigarettes. In the group, there were businessmen, business-women, grandfathers, grandmothers, single moms and dads, married folk, and even a few unlikely twenty-somethings (who seemed too young to be there). The group was both melancholy and hope-filled; it felt human.
An older gentleman with overalls took a turn sharing. There was a restful resilience about him, like he had weathered a thousand storms and still trusted that there was good in the world. He looked around the room with kind eyes, and spoke to his AA family, “I’ve found that it’s better to weep with my wife, than to get drunk alone.”
His words echoed in my mind, like a new proverb had been coined, a saying forged in the fire of failure and suffering. Relational truth is sacred. It is born from lonely moments, sleepless nights, shame, despair, hard decisions, and hope. The old man preached a thousand sermons with that one phrase: “It’s better to weep with my wife, than to get drunk alone.”
The group had welcomed me in to observe for graduate school, and they gave me more than I bargained for. Their combined stories told me that in our pain, tragedies, struggles, and addictions we’re all wanting the same thing—connection, comfort, and intimacy.
We may not all go to AA, but we’re all human. Whether we have problems with pornography, food, shopping, sports, work, drugs, or movies, we all cope with pain wrongly at times. Addiction reveals our need for God. Jesus is life, love, and hope eternal. He’s the love we’re all looking for; the hope of nations. His name is Emmanuel, God with us—reminding us we’re never alone. Talking with the Lord satisfies, especially with a cup of coffee in hand, and the Psalms are a good place to bring your tears.
There’s another truth, though, left undiscovered by too many. We need safe trusted friends who love us beyond what we can do for them. We have a craving for worth beyond our skills, looks, and assets. The Creator designed us to agree with this truth: I need you and you need me—and that need is good. It doesn’t mean you’re a silly, clingy, needy, weak person if you need someone. It means you’re alive, and you’re probably being honest.
Of course, we all have tendencies to err in relationships; after all, we can be too independent or too dependent at times (occasionally in the same day). But in the end, no matter what, we all need real face to face interactions, not holograms or Instagrams. Scripture encourages us to love one another authentically, and it’s more than texting or rushing someone to fit your agenda. We desire soul to soul conversation. When we reach into our dark past or stare at our fearful future, what will we do with our pain? Will we go at it alone again, or try something new?
It’s scary to reveal real emotions to one another. It’s even more difficult to admit weakness or failure. Numbing our pain through addiction isn’t working. Hiding our fear isn’t making us less afraid. Our pride that says, “I’ve got this, I don’t need anybody,” isn’t making us more humble and loving. Stuffing our sadness is not making us happier, and isolation is definitely not making us stronger. So, if denying our sorrow with a plastic smile isn’t helping us heal, what could we do differently?
When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. He didn’t say, “Don’t worry about it,” or, “Don’t be sad,” or something really absurd like, “There’s no crying in the New Testament!” He showed the world something beautiful by opening his heart and humanness to the family.
We have to risk vulnerability with one another. Humility is our last option. The church could learn a few things from Alcoholics Anonymous. The truth is, fake happiness is worse than real sadness. Sharing our pain and finding God’s comfort together might be messy and inconvenient, but real connection and intimacy waits for us on the other side. It’s better to weep together than drink alone.