In large part I'm coming to see that it is because we all believe that where we are is unique to us. No one struggles with the things we struggle with. No one would believe it if we told them the truth of who we are. No one would stand with us if they knew...I mean, really knew...who we were.
What if they knew about...
- the apathy that fills you each Sunday morning during worship?
- the fact that you haven't been one on one with God in a decade? Or two?
- the bitterness you still feel at the loss of a loved one?
- the unbelief that leaves you questioning what everyone else seems to grasp so easily?
- the fact that you say I'll pray for you almost every day and can't remember it five minutes after you leave them?
- the fear you have not for yourself but what God might do to your children?
- the envy that fills your heart for what God's given another?
- the marriage that feels more dead than alive?
- the fact that you've been a Christian for decades but have never...never...even tried to learn His Word?
- the deep despair you feel about yawning blackness that stays only just off to the side but threatens to pull you under every day?
- how hard you work, hoping to earn just a little favor for God...while knowing all along that it'll never be enough?
- the fact that you don't even give God a thought really as you go about your day?
But the truth is you are not alone. Nothing you're going through is any different than what we all struggle with. I mean it. But I'm not sure I can convince you. I've learned that even if I shared every struggle I've ever had, you'd probably say that I overcame it, but you never will. Or I may have felt it a little, but I have no idea how bad it is in you. Or you'll just flat out deny it because you've never seen it in my life. Even if I share that I'm going through the very same thing you are right now, you'll have confidence that I'll get through it, but leave still knowing that you never will.
So, let me see if I can convince you from His Word that you are just not that special...that the way you are is not something new to God...that the way you're wired or what you're going through is something that He's already made provision for.
First read this with me...
no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside;
together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Your sinfulness is not a shock to God. Frankly, you have no idea how bad you really are. It is one of His manifold graces that He doesn't reveal all that we are in one huge lump for we, like Isaiah, would be undone. What has been revealed about you isn't any different than what resides in me. When you look at another and say that no one could possibly understand your sinfulness, your shortfalls, your struggles...you deny this very truth. You are one amongst us. A sinner. Saved by grace alone.
that is not common to man.
God is faithful,
and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability,
but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape,
that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
It's just common, ordinary temptation. And it's common to all mankind. Everyone battles. Everyone has to fight. No one gets a pass. Not you. Not me. Not Paul...
For I do not do what I want,
but I do the very thing I hate.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.
For I have the desire to do what is right,
but not the ability to carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want,
but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Romans 7:15, 18-19
Sound familiar? But are you dismissing Paul like you'd dismiss me? Don't you know that God wrote these Words so that you would find help in time of need? He didn't have to inspire Paul to write about his own personal struggles. What was written was for your sake as an example for you to persevere in the faith...to know that you are not alone. If an apostle struggled? One who'd seen Jesus face to face? Well then, you and I can be sure that it will happen to us.
So, how did Paul fight through it? Just know that it's common and keep trying harder? No, no, no. He did what Micah and Jeremiah taught him to do from the Scriptures he had learned. But now he could do it in a cross-centered way...
Who will deliver me from this body of death?
He knows that he is the lowest of the low. He knows that nothing good dwells within him. He knows that he will have to fight for the rest of his life to resist temptation. And he knows he'll never win on his own. What can he do? What hope does he have? His very next words reveal the secret...
There is therefore now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 7:25a, 8:1
Believe it? It's His Word. Who's right...Him or you? You stand before the throne as a justified sinner. You are not yet what you will be. But you are not what you were. And you do not stand alone. The rest of the body stands with you at the foot of the cross having no righteousness of our own. We are all equal there both in our sin...and in the grace to withstand our sin.
It is the truth that we must walk in when we speak to one another. We need to say when declaring our own sin...I know you'll understand that I'm struggling to have the faith to believe that God can get me through this. Pray for me that I won't fall.
And if they do react in a way that makes you feel stupid, alone or far from grace? Walk away uncondemned and find another. They haven't changed the truth. And don't walk away angry with them. Have compassion. Remember to keep in mind that you are just like them as you know they are just like you. They just don't know it yet. They will fall one day. Be ready to meet them with the truth that will bring them hope.
And we need to say when someone shares with us their sin...Of course, I understand. I'm just like you. But I can see the way through it. Take my hand. I'll help you to walk. We'll get through this together in Christ.
No gasps. No shocked faces. Just a deep, deep awareness that we are them...and would be stuck in the mire with them today, if not for His grace. If you can see, help someone who's blind. And if you are blind, find someone who's been given some sight. After a while, we'll all be standing together...hand in hand...until we all attain to the unity of the faith...to mature manhood...no longer deceived by the craftiness of schemes to keep us believing that we are alone in the fight for faith.