The God of Small Things: repost

littleGodIf 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?

3 thoughts on “The God of Small Things: repost

  1. This is a good question indeed. As Christ’s body we are to be his agents, to minister to each other. We seem to be very very uncomfortable with this role.

    So what DO we do instead? Collect money to send teens on mission trips!!!

    This sorting out of our pain, allowing Jesus to heal us, ultimately brings us into the process of sanctification. It is this process that makes us useful to others in ministering. When we don’t allow Jesus into our pain it hampers us in our ability to reach out and be Jesus to others.

    I spent years of my Christian life in church, but the concept of sanctification was almost unknown to me, cloaked within prepackaged materials labeled “Discipleship Training”. The substance may have been there, but it lost something in the programmed approach.

    I still fall short of this myself. Often, I long to rip off my mask and, from experience, speak grace to the shameful things I can see poking out from beneath your costume. But, what if I’m wrong about what I see? What if I’ve exposed myself for nothing and you recoil and go tell everybody else and…

    Easier to smile and say “You’re in our prayers.” and hand over cash so Suzie and Joe can go with all their friends on a trip to that terrible sinful far away place where no one knows the healing power of Jesus…

    As a church we are hiding and pretending and dying of loneliness. Peddling a gospel that’s not the Gospel and binding people up in choir robes tighter than any straight jacket could.

    We hand out band aids to people with cancer and cough drops for broken legs. A broken heart…how about some nail polish? Half the youth group is on drugs, the other half’s doing porn. Two girls are pregnant and three kids tried suicide just last month. Where are the parents? Vegas.
    “We’ll be praying…OK? Let us know if you need anything.”

    (Remind me to put my ringer on vibrate)

  2. I’ve encounterd a lot of this in the past. Now God has finally given me what I longed for: Christian friends and professionals who care and who believe he can use them to bring me healing.

    And I’m struggling not to run away! Crazy! I finally have this great opportunity of support, care and wisdom and I find myself fearful and worried about disappointing people.

    Thankfully the people in question have not given up on me as easily as I did. They keep rebuking me in love, praying for me, listening to me and encouraging me to pursue relationship with Jesus above all else.

    I am thankful for these brothers and sisters. I hope someday I can give as much love as I am receiving.

    The Body is as broken as the people who comprise it. It’s hard to find acceptance and healing in the church, and even when you begin to the temptations and fears of rejection and failure are hard to bear. But praise God, he does have some faithful followers who model Christ’s love and compassion (however imperfectly and humanly). For those people, I am truly thankful. I hope others are able to find this gift too. And that we are able (however imperfectly) to use it to pursue Jesus and honour him.

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