In January of 2020, before literally everything in our world changed, we had the privilege of seeing Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway with some dear friends. I love musicals .. which totally makes sense because I love a good story and I love music; musicals are the perfect marriage of literature and music. Dear Evan Hansen is one that will make you laugh and make you cry. The music is so good. And the story … It deals with some very real, very hard issues including anxiety, depression, and suicide.
I remember the first time I listened to the album, there were lyrics that just blew me away because it was like I could have written them … I have felt these same ways but also felt like I was the only one who felt these things.
Words like …
“On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been”
“When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
Did I even make a sound
It’s like I never made a sound
Will I ever make a sound?”
And this one always makes me cry …
I’d rather pretend I’m something better than
These broken parts
Pretend I’m something other than
This mess that I am
‘Cause then I don’t have to look at it
And no one gets to look at it
No, no one can really see
‘Cause I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me
I never let them see the worst of me
‘Cause what if everyone saw?
What if everyone knew?
Would they like what they saw?
Or would they hate it too?
Even though I didn’t write these words, it feels pretty vulnerable to share them here, acknowledging that I’ve felt this. But when we saw this musical performed live, there was not a dry eye in the house, and I thought … maybe everyone feels this … in some way, to some extent. This feeling of … Do I really matter? These thoughts that focus on what we hate about ourselves and the assumption that that is what other people see too. Feelings of Loneliness … Hopelessness … Darkness …
Probably the song Dear Evan Hansen is most known for is “You Will Be Found.” It is the song that brings hope and light, reminding that you are not alone … you will be found. It is beautiful. It is a good reminder to look for those around us who feel alone and to reach out to others when we feel alone.
As good as this song is, and as much as I love this musical, I honestly left with a little bit of an empty feeling … a little unsatisfied. I’ve read reviews that have said similar things. Here is my take on why that is. Simply put – What is missing is Jesus. I was asked once to describe what I thought my life would be like if I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, and I could picture it in my mind immediately … loneliness … hopelessness … darkness.
The musical Dear Evan Hansen tries to bring hope into the picture, but the problem is that it is the type of hope that fails. The ultimate hope we have has to be in the only one who never changes and never fails – Jesus. For example, there are some amazing people in my life. I have the most amazing parents and family you could ever ask for. My husband is my best friend and my biggest fan who encourages me and loves me so well. But even still, without Jesus, these wonderful humans do not take away the dark feelings that creep in. Even though they love me, they will still fail me. My hope in them is not complete.
Even if I can love myself … the peace that brings is not complete. The character Evan Hansen finds a way to be happy just being himself … “and that’s enough,” he says. But that’s not enough … from my experience. I needed to know that there is a reason I’m here … a reason I am who I am. I find my purpose in the one who created me, who loves me enough to die for me. I find joy in knowing He created me the way He wanted. He really knows me, even the parts I don’t like, and He loves me.
This doesn’t mean that there won’t be pain and darkness in life. I know so many who have gone through unthinkable pain in 2020 … love ones lost unexpectedly and tragically, years of betrayal coming to light, a cancer diagnosis after already walking that road once before with a spouse. Yet in each of these friends who know and follow Jesus, I see the hope and peace in their eyes and hear it in their words. I don’t understand why they have to go through these hard things, but I do know how they keep standing because I know their rock. And Jesus, our rock, knew pain and loneliness too. “He was despised and rejected, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was … Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains…” (Isaiah 53:3-4)
2020 has changed us all. One of my daughters recently told me, after she found out about yet another family tradition falling through this year because of COVID, that 2020 has taught her not to hope. YIKES. We must have hope. We need it. The problem is where we place it. There is a Charles Colson quote I memorized when I was a girl (because it was at the beginning of a Stephen Curtis Chapman song) about hope:
“Where is the hope? I meet millions who tell me that they feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us has is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people. That’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.”
I think maybe everyone knows how it feels to be in a room full of people but still feel alone. I think maybe everyone knows how it feels to be alone with thoughts about not liking yourself, wishing you were different. And this year I know so many people find themselves truly alone. This year I know so many are in pain. I just want so badly for you to know and experience Jesus and the hope, and love, and peace, and joy, and purpose that only He can bring … the completeness, the wholeness. And if you do know Jesus, to remember. Remember all He’s done for you. Remember that He will never leave you or forsake you. The words to that song, “You are not Alone” bring with it a deep fulfilling truth for those who trust in Jesus. He is called ‘Immanuel’ which means “God with us.”
At the end of every year I start praying for what God wants to teach me and show me in the year to come. Some years I feel like there is a particular word or phrase that I can take into the new year to focus on. In December of 2019, I felt like God gave me the word ‘Immanuel’ for 2020. I never would have guessed or imagined how much we would need that word for this year … Immanuel. We are not alone … HE is with us.