The gospel that frees sinners is the same gospel that frees sinners to admit failure. In an excerpt taken from his book Living by Grace William Hordern writes:
If the first implication of Christian freedom is that the church should be free from rules and regulations, the next implication is that the church should provide an environment where fear of being oneself is removed. Christians may sing with fervor "Just As I Am", but all too often people are afraid to be themselves in church circles. Instead they find that they are put under great pressure to wear a false mask, to pretend to a righteousness that they do not have. In some circles, at least, it may win a badge of approval to confess to past sins. Christians can take considerable pleasure in hearing of the depths from which a person has been delivered. But Christians are not nearly so likely to be open to confession of sins of weaknesses that plague a church member in the present.
I Once Struggled
As I have sat and listened to speakers and leaders talk about pain and suffering I've become aware that most times the story goes like this:
"I was going along in life thinking everything was pretty good and then _______ (fill in the blank) happened. I struggled and failed and God brought me to the end of myself. My faith is stronger and I see more of God's love for me now than I did before. I understand now that God had a purpose for my pain."
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE those stories! I have stories like that myself. When others share what God has done in their lives it gives me hope and courage and helps me to persevere through my own tough circumstances. It helps me to see more of Jesus. But just as Hordern describes, there is somehow a sense that it is O.K. to share what God has brought us out of, but when it comes to talking about present pain, present sin and present catastrophe, we draw the line. I am not an expert, but having been through my share of struggle I can see reasons for this-
- Because of my pain it's hard for me to talk.period.
- I don't want to admit my own weakness and sin - fear and pride gets in the way. After all I need to be who you think that I am.
- I'm confused and depressed and indecisive.
- If I did feel like talking, I wouldn't know where to go.
- The enemy has convinced me I'm the only one struggling with this.
- The messages I receive inside and outside the church tell me others want happy perky people and right now I'm not that.
- I'm in a leadership position in my community and my reputation will be damaged.
- My job could be at risk if people know what I'm dealing with.
- My friends will get burned out on my problems.
- My family members won't understand and I don't want to burden them with my junk.
- I am embarrassed and I should know better. I should not be dealing with this. (this is more prevalent inside the church. You can audibly hear muffled gasps when people learn about your sin)
- People will think my response to this struggle is extreme and that my pain is really not that bad.
- When going through a difficult season of life, it is hard to find time to be still. We have jobs and kids and marriages and responsibilities and it can be impossible to get off the crazy train. While normally that may be OK, during intense seasons of struggle your schedule leaves no time to think about your problems let alone seek out others to help.
"he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,"
You may have other reasons. There are no cookie cutter problems, responses or solutions. God has wired us all differently and he has allowed circumstances in our lives that are unique to me and to you. The comforting good news is that in the person of Jesus Christ, God has given us the Answer. He has given us a Redeemer and He has given us the redeemed.
"to proclaim liberty to the captives,"
Because of what Christ has accomplished - the redemption of sinners - we are free to admit struggle and pain. Not just the pretty package neatly tied with a a bow to present after it's over, but the unwrapped, disheveled, pile of junk that is difficult and hard right now. The gospel that comes to us in Jesus Christ fees us to fail and liberates us from having to cover up our failures.
"and the opening of the prison to those who are bound."
And stay tuned for more Real Life Wednesdays where I will be sharing snapshots of the reality of life! You can find my recent Real Life Wednesday here.