First of all let me say; the above title is allow, not encourage.
I meet with a lot of different people. Lots of people struggle with a lot of different issues. In my role as pastor I have come across a temptation that I was never told about in seminary.
I wonder if this is because it is a temptation that you kind of can’t prepare for in any way by mere study, but only in the real space of a deep conversation with a real person will you ever encounter it. The temptation is this:
When someone sits in front of me describing an issue that only God can help them with, for some strange reason I am so tempted to offer an ‘easy solution’. That is; a solution that does not involve an acknowledgement of our absolute lost-ness without God. A solution that doesn’t talk about sin and it’s effects. A solution of ‘cheap grace.’ Because there’s a part of me -God forgive me- that is tempted to be more concerned with how people are feeling than if they will be saved or not.
It is alarmingly easy to think that the primary task of ministry is to make people feel better, when it is in fact to help them get to know God better.
This is compounded by the fact that in nearly every ‘tough’ conversation I have had to have with a young person (cos y’know I’m a youth Pastor) in my 10 years of ministry, all but one of these were followed by a family member (not the person involved mind you) approaching me essentially suggesting that I may have been a little tough on them.
The thing is though that Jesus didn’t beat around the bush
1About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. 2“Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?”Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? 3Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. 4And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? 5No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
Sooner or later we need to simply be ok with the truth: that in the flesh, we really don’t want to know about our lost-ness.
Jesus said some hard words…..twice But he did this because he loved people.
He loved people enough, he loves us enough to wake us up so that we might repent and be saved.
Maybe the most evil thing we can do as Christians is offer people ‘easy solutions’.
About a week ago now I was driving in my car and one of the most confronting thoughts came to mind as clear as day:
‘Every time we offer someone a solution to their problems that does not involve nor reference God’s word, we are telling them that ‘man can totally live without a single word from the mouth of God.’
Mother Teresa on the other hand is often attributed with the quote: “you’ll never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
I wonder if we’re scared of despair, scared of our helplessness because it takes a scalpel to the otherwise pristine face of the modern domestication of life. So instead we’re left to offer the benefits of a mere positive outlook and various mental health programs. As important as mental health is, this is like placing a band aid on a cut, without bothering to first disinfect it. The bleeding may stop, but the pain from infection will only increase.
The bible takes the moment of despair seriously. So should we, it is a sacred thing, the doorway to salvation. The bible makes it that it’s only those in the darkness that are actually ready to appreciate the light.
I love the ‘Message’ translation of Jesus’ words in Matt 5:3 You’re blessed when you are at the end of your rope.
It is important to embrace & acknowledge the utter despair of being in a situation where we see no way out. Unless we acknowledge the impossibility where we are at, then we will not be able to recognise the rescue of God and therefore will not gain any encouragement from said rescue.
In other words, as long as according to us something was achieved by some measure, however small, of our strength we will fail to see God’s hand in it and hence rob ourselves of the experience of being saved by God.
So what does all this mean?
I guess the best thing to do especially when God seems to have disappeared from our sight is to acknowledge to him and to ourselves that we have absolutely no idea how or when he is going to ‘reappear’ to us again and that we are completely at his mercy.
But the wonderful truth is this; the acknowledgement of our predicament is the beginning of it’s end. At the very least, the end of our experiencing of it as a predicament. To despair of ourselves is the first step of casting our hope on God, and so begin the journey out from the place of despair.
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.