Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Struggle
It seems common sensical to say that everyone struggles with something. In fact, it seems like I shouldn't even have to say it because it's so obvious. Relationships, weight, pornography, alcohol, feelings of inadequacy, lonliness, depression, a dead-end job (or no job), anger, age, school, work, eating disorders, death of a loved one, boredom, you name it, someone around you is struggling with it.

I believe that our struggles happen for a reason. The book of James says they happen to bolster our faith, which increases our endurance, which builds strong character, and that God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. As the song "Jesus Loves Me" puts it: "Little ones to Him belong/They are weak but He is strong." God's strength and love is somehow made known through our struggles.

The problem (struggle?) I have is that it seems very rare in church to even hear of the struggles beyond the physical. I dare you to check out the prayer requests time in your church - if it's like ours, we have lots of prayers for physical needs, prayers for those who have lost loved ones, a few for our service personnel, and various thanksgivings for birthdays, guests, successful surgeries, healings, and so forth.

Nobody mentions it aloud when they are struggling with other things. Why is that?

I think this is an area where Satan has gotten himself a stronghold within the Body. He wants us to think we're alone - that nobody else could possibly be struggling with that (whatever that might happen to be). We have such a tendency to try to put on the best possible face when we enter a church building that we might be struggling with the same thing that our neighbors are, but nobody knows...

I think it also has to do with the Church's unfortunate history of "shooting their wounded." When someone finds out that someone else is struggling, the whispers start. "Did you hear about so-and-so?" "How can they call themselves Christians?" "If that were happening in my house, I'd put a stop to it immediately!" You know the story. You've heard those indignant whispers. So, rather than put up with being the focus of the church gossip, people keep their struggles to themselves.

Then nobody knows about it, and what nobody knows won't hurt anyone, will it? Ahh, but it hurts us all. If one part of the body suffers, so does the rest. And furthermore, if we don't know about a struggle, we don't get a chance to be the Body by encouraging you or by celebrating with you as you overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that struggle (and the response to it) doesn't simply define an individual; it defines the Church.


Chuckinator said...

Larry Crabb's book: "The Safest Place on Earth" Talks about creating an enviroment of Authenticity, and Security within a Christian community, allowing "real" healing to begin. Read it sometime...
It is when a "church" body realizes that the deep wispers of gossip spread carelessly by those calling themselves "good christians" are actually the work of the Devil, that a foundation of trust can be built.
Once trust is established, and members of the community of Christ(the church) are able to share their struggles,(shedding light on Satans dark little secret), he becomes powerless, and REAL healing begins, and God's healing is allowed to do it's work.
Luv Ya, CD

Mary Beth said...

I completely agree. I think that's why the UMC is putting forth a lot of effort into remaking small group ministry. One of Wesley's defining marks was the insistence upon Christians being accountable to one another in groups. It's just so much easier to be a social club.

If we in the church were really authentic about our struggles and the church was really a place where we allowed Christ to show us healing, there wouldn't be a church anywhere that wasn't busting at the seams.