I am a liar.
You probably are too. Now, I’m not talking about the average deceptions that we tell each other to cover up our sins. I am referring to a deep lie that destroys our hope for spiritual maturity, powerful community and a penetrating witness to the world. We tell the lie for the same reason that we tell all lies.
We want to protect ourselves and not send people running because they get a glimpse of the real us.
What is my lie?
I am a happy Christian.
I tell it every Sunday when I am greeted at church with the innocuous question, “How are you doing?”
I tell it every time our small group meets and I share little about the real rumblings of my heart.
I tell it when I preach about Jesus’ offer of a full life but I feel guilty because I am not sure that I have it or understand it.
The reality is that life is a struggle. Discouragement and frustration are constant battles for me. I am unhappy a lot. I know that Jesus is the answer, but I think I might be missing something. Do you ever feel like that?
The message within the Christian community is that if you know Jesus, you should be happy. Recently, I read a line from Larry Crabb’s book “Inside Out” that said we “should not measure the quality of our walk with the Lord by the absence of unhappy feelings.” That line is liberating. That line is freedom.
You are not a bad Christian if you struggle with happiness or joy. You see, the problem is not only that we are lying about our condition, but that the lie is based on a false expectation.
Jesus does offer life. Jesus does promise to quench our thirst. Change and joy are possible. I believe that Jesus is the only One that can give it. But, we live in a broken world.
It is filled with pain and struggle that will not pass you by just because you love Jesus. We are broken. People hurt us. We hurt people we love. We choose stupid paths that we hope will bring a little joy. There is a lot of internal work to do to reach maturity. This life is a thousand mile journey back to Eden across rough terrain. It doesn’t all happen when we say a prayer to ask Jesus into our life. We are all works in process and sometimes that process will be as fun as being refined in a fire (1 Peter 1:7).
The necessary starting place is honesty. It’s not a sin to admit that life is a struggle. It doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it is the required element to possess strength because it sends us running to God. The Apostle Paul let us in on this secret in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We must embrace Paul’s example. He confesses weakness and I don’t think Paul’s “delight” meant that he was happy to be limited in his ability or joyful to hear the searing insults of others. I don’t think it meant that his many sufferings were a good time. He grew into a relationship of dependence on Jesus that produced the strength of God in his life that enabled him to rise up in spite of the very real experience of pain.
I stated at the beginning that this lie destroys our hope for spiritual maturity, powerful community and a penetrating witness to the world. This is significant because it’s not just our life that hangs in the balance here. It is also the community of the church and a world that desperately needs Jesus.
If we keep propagating the lie that all is well in our lives, we will not grow in Christ.
We will languish in immaturity and silence with a plastic smile on our face. We must learn how to trust Jesus for our life and let him renew us while accepting that things this side of heaven will always involve struggle. Don’t forget that the Bible presents the life that we live in the context of a great battle.
If we keep propagating the lie that all is well in our lives, we will never know true community.
We cannot enjoy deep relationships when we hide our true selves. God gives us the resources to be honest about our lives and love each other anyway. As real life is shared, people have the opportunity to serve each other…to help each other. This is how the church becomes strong. It can be beautiful, but we have to push past the fear.
If we keep propagating the lie that all is well in our lives, we will never impact the world around us.
I believe that people long for someone to show them something authentic about God. If it isn’t real, people are not interested. But, people respect honesty. They already know life is hard. We get to show them a generous God that sends his son to sacrifice himself for them and rise from the dead to walk with them through life.
“Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” -Leviticus 19:11
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