(Originally printed in the Summer 2003 Issue of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 13)
by Mike J. Knowles
Does any of this sound familiar?
Living day to day, minute to minute, wondering if it will ever get any better, wondering if the hurt and despair will ever stop.
Not wanting to get out of bed in the morning (afternoon?) because of not wanting to face another day of loneliness and depression.
“If anyone really cared, they would be able to see my pain, and they would do something to try to help.”
(“If God really loved me, he wouldn’t let me go through this!”)
Maybe having thoughts of committing sui …
I don’t understand! The Christian life shouldn’t be like this, should it? Didn’t Jesus promise He would give us life “more abundantly” (John 10:10)? Didn’t God assure us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)?
If this is abundant life, Jesus, take it back!
If you are really with me, God, how can you just watch and do nothing?
What is an article like this doing in an apologetics journal??!!
Well, sad to say, this is reality for a lot of people. These are questions many of us have asked (and are asking), and they are legitimate questions. They come from the deepest regions of the heart as our pain and suffering try to find expression in a “Christian” context that often makes us feel like we shouldn’t have such feelings and concerns …
“All you need to do, brother, is claim the victory, and don’t let the devil get a foothold.”
“Remember: it’s always darkest before the dawn.”
“In all things God is working for the good of those who love him …”
Excuse me while I take all of these “pat” answers, roll them up into a big ball, and chuck them out the window! When we are in pain, the last thing we need (and the least useful) are pat answers!
So is there an answer? As someone who has gone through the same things I have just talked about, I would like to suggest an idea that I still even now am exploring: Read the Bible!
Hang on … wait a minute! Don’t turn the page! Please keep reading and hear me out! When I was in Bible college, I thought that by studying the Bible and gaining more knowledge about it, my relationship with Jesus would grow and mature. Instead, I discovered the truth in the statement, “Bible college is the easiest place to backslide.” The Bible became a book to learn, and Christ became the person I was learning about. When my life began to fall apart in (what was supposed to be) my final year, I came very close to dropping out and turning my back on God and anything called “Christian.” To me, there was no longer any reality to it, and it seemed to make no difference in the hurt I was suffering. Getting involved in apologetics has similar landmines. Working on making a defense of the faith can cause a narrow focus on fine tuning arguments about the Bible, the historicity of Jesus Christ, the Christian worldview, but can also cause one to lose touch with the reality of the person of Christ. Even worship can become so enamored with the time and the style that the person of Christ becomes only incidental to the ritual itself.
I would suggest that one of the main reasons why, when things go bad we seem to find little comfort or security in our relationship with Christ, is because we don’t see Him as a real person with Whom we can identify. Instead, we turn to our friends, our counselor, or our pastor for answers and sympathy.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with helping each other when we are hurting—after all, it’s one of the greatest and most needed things we can do. After all, the body of Christ is given in order that He can use it to grow us up as we all use our gifts (Ro. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-31 & 14:1-5). Nevertheless, during those times of hurt and despair, why don’t we turn to Christ in the same way we turn to those we can see and touch?
To tell you the truth, for the longest time I found it easier to worship Christ as Lord than to talk to Him as a friend. Sure, Jesus was God-in-the-flesh, but He was also a human being, a Jew in Galilee with a name and a family and friends, a person who was, in a way, just like everyone else. He went to school, grew up with brothers and sisters, and worked for a living. He experienced physical and emotional pain, and fought temptation just like you and me. He was also ridiculed and rejected by His peers, His elders, His family, and finally, even His closest friends. This is the Jesus Who not only lived 2000 years ago, but Whom is also with each one of us every day.
How do we discover (or, rediscover) this Jesus? We put all of our learned and/or imagined ideas about Who He is to the test and read about Him afresh and anew. We get our Bible, and take an hour or so here or there in the midst of our hectic schedules (perhaps instead of watching the movie-of-the-week), read one of the Gospels from beginning to end (try Mark or Luke), and immerse ourselves in the story.
By realizing this Jesus in the story is a real person, we get acquainted or reacquainted with the “real” Jesus Who …
… when He heard about the death of his relative John, dealt with His grief and emotions by going off by Himself for a while that it’s okay to sometimes want to be alone with our pain for a while) (Matthew 14:1-23).
… rather than being the Spock-like, King-James-speaking Messiah portrayed in the movies (calm, cool, and collected), He instead was frustrated by stubbornness, infuriated by self-righteousness, and thrilled by simple faith. He wasn’t afraid to cry in front of people (John 11:35-36; Luke 19:41), and didn’t hide His fears or hesitate to ask for help (Matthew 26:38). In fact, He appears to be more emotional and spontaneous than the average person, not less!
This is the same Jesus Who is with us through our hurting, and is waiting and willing to listen to us and help us, if we’ll only just ask him … one friend to another.
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