A Little God for Little Problems?

If as a church, we don’t respond to brokenness and mess, then here’s what we’re preaching:

‘Our God is too small.  And your problems are too big’.

Some of the most devastating words I’ve ever heard were when I was dying (quite literally) of anorexia and had been discharged from the NHS .  After months of searching, Glen and I found ourselves with a Christian counsellor of 30 years experience. His words? ‘I’m sorry, this is far too big for me to handle.  I’ll see if I can find someone else who can help’.

He didn’t.   And that day, a lot more closed shut than the door of his office.

I don’t blame him – he just said what he felt.  And what he believed to be true.  He really felt that my issues were beyond his scope.  And yes, I, and others, may also need outside help.  But  fundamentally I need Christ – a Christ who meets me in the mess.

I’d love to say that it was just our experience.  A one-off.  But it is not.  Every day I hear from people who have found the same thing.  Every day those words are being repeated to broken people in our churches. Not just with eating disorders. Not even just with mental health issues.  It’s ok to talk about wanting to prioritise say, quiet times as a couple.  But what about our other struggles?  In the bank? Or the bedroom? If  these things are off-limits to us as a church, then the message is that they’re off-limits to God too.  That He’s just not big enough.  That He doesn’t care.  He only wants in on the acceptable bits of me.

So often, what crushes us is not simply our struggles.  It’s the unutterable loneliness, the shame, the isolation, the sheer effort required to pretend we’ve got it together, to adjust the masks.

As Christians perhaps we need to ask ourselves some questions.

Like these:

Is Christ a doctor for the sick, or a cipher for peer-sanctioned approval?

What constitutes a ‘spiritual’ issue? As ‘opposed’ to a ‘medical’ or ‘psychological’ one.

How do we respond to brokenness?

And, perhaps more insidiously, what happens when we don’t respond at all?

Because here’s the bottom line.  When it comes to dealing with broken people, ( not least you and me), then doing nothing is not an option.  If we don’t respond, then we’re saying the gospel is not enough.

I’m not talking about “acceptable struggles”.  “Spiritual’ problems.”  Minor pastoral concerns.  I mean the big stuff, the mess.  All too often, we hand this over wholesale, to the ‘professionals’.

Do we believe that Christ’s lordship extends over every area of our lives?  That He died to cover over every shame, every sin? That we belong to Him – body and soul and that He speaks hope and healing into every single dark place?

It’s not a question of handing responsibility over to schools or doctors.  Because hurting people aren’t just looking for people to handle their problems.  They’re looking for someone who can handle them.  We need people to stand with us in our mess, to point us back to The Doctor for the sick.  And if we can’t do that as a church, then what exactly are we doing?

12 thoughts on “A Little God for Little Problems?

  1. Beautifully written blog!

    The God I was shown as an adolescent, was a God with whom I could not relate. And even though I traversed through the halls of a “Christian” school, I never saw God there. It wasn’t until 20 years later, years I spent in the occult and Satanism, before I found the awesome saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was then I discovered the “True Divine Physician.”

    My prayer is that our Churches, and our people rise up and claim that divine authority that Jesus Christ bestowed upon us. Thank you for this blog, it was a blessing!

    In Jesus Christ,

  2. Thanks Mark.

    You’re right – it’s a tragedy that we can be raised in a ‘Christian’ context and not be introduced to Christ, or talk the language of faith and yet not have the relationship that impels it.

    I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through, but am so thankful that you’ve also met Christ and known His saving grace. As your story highlights, He is the Saviour who speaks light into even the darkest places.

  3. This is such a good post – thank you for sharing it. I was chatting with a friend about this the other day and it really made me think how the church and how we respond to people that are struggling. The general feeling I get from people is that they will listen and help to a certain extent but if by a certain point you dont pull your socks up then they will stop listening or helping.

    There is also a certain culture within Christianity where we have to be a certain “cool” way. I cant even put my finger on it, but do you know what I mean? And if you dont act or look that way, your always feeling on the edge. Which means when your going through a struggle, they may not stand with you because you dont fit in – “We cant have messy people in our group…”

  4. Thanks Cat – yes I do know what you mean about being ‘cool’. We’re sometimes allowed to have struggles, but within certain areas, for a certain length of time and in a certain way. I’m struck by how Jesus responded to the crowds who endlessly demanded from Him. He never pushed them away, even though he was harassed at every turn and exhausted Himself. Instead He was filled with compassion and pity for them.

  5. A Christian counsellor? What a joke >:(
    SO glad we have the Almighty when we’re let down by others.

    Thank you for your such inspiring blog *H*

  6. Thanks for reading! And yes, what a comfort to know that even though we will fail others and be let down ourselves, underneath are His everlasting arms.

  7. So true – feel that I’ve never experienced someone fobbing me off like that, but have been the fobber too many times to count… acknowledging that there’s a problem, ackowledging that it needs addressing, and often even acknowledging that it’s only Christ that can help – and yet leaving it at that. Grateful for your post and for our Saviour’s perfect substitute – where would we be without it?

  8. There is a great chapter in “Total Church” (Timmis & Chester) on the pastoral implications of a commitment to gospel and community that really rings true with what you are saying here. The professionals are fine (most of the time) but their help can only ever supplement the ‘truly’ effective aid of the Holy Spirit working through the gospel in the community of believers.

  9. Hi Rich

    Yes, I’ve fobbed people off too – and it’s much easier to point out what we do wrong, than to practise my own advice!

  10. This is very well said; it encourages me to look around at service and even my classroom and ask, “which of these people am I pretending Jesus wouldn’t bother after?” The students at my college have sometimes teased me for this, but I try to use the refrain, “Jesus can work with that,” because so many people have reasons as to why they cannot start to pray or cannot learn the faith.

    Thanks for this!

  11. Hi Kyle

    Thanks for your comment – you’re right, the classroom is a great mission field, but one I hadn’t thought about in this context. I like ‘Jesus can work with that’, especially as it puts the focus on Him and His grace rather than on us and our limitations.

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