At the start of this year a number of people in our church found life pretty tough going: battles with immigration, unemployment, temporary homelessness, illness, stress and uncertainty all hit hard. It’s at points like those that the challenge to be a genuine family is tested. How will you love those who need a place to sleep if not by finding them room in your house? How will you love those who have no money other than by sharing what you have so that you can help them pay the rent? At the end of the day these personal challenges must be faced together or it’s hard to call yourself a community of disciples.
However what we also spotted was the belief that somehow this wasn’t the way it should be. By that I I don’t mean the recognition that the world is fallen and broken but instead a surprise that it was or a surprise that this should somehow affect me a follower of Jesus. Once again self-help, therapeutic, me-centred Christianity failed to deliver for people when life got tough. So how should we think when life is anything but easy?
The world is fallen
We all know that we don’t start the story at Genesis 3 but Genesis 1. God created the world and called it good, but let’s not forget Genesis 3 happened. The world is broken, evil is real, people lie and die, cheats get away with it, power and might trumps justice on a daily basis. The world is not as it should be and we will get mixed up in that. Our own sin will hurt others, their sin will hurt us and a pain-free smooth ride through life is a lie. A faith that doesn’t face the raw emotional force of this is no use at all.
Don’t be surprised
1 Peter 4:12-15 questions the surprise that life should be hard. Why are you surprised? You follow a man who was crucified? Your faith is built on the the lives of those who have been arrested, flogged, shipwrecked, abandoned, stoned and beaten. Why are you surprised? (Hebrews 5:8; 2 Cor 6:4-10)
Don’t run from weakness
We live in a culture that hates weakness, it can’t be admitted and it can’t be lived with. 2 Cor 12:9-10 is an anathema to a world where you should know your strengths the gospel says ‘you are weak’ but trust in the one who is strong. Strong enough to defeat sin and death.
You have been sent a comforter
Have you ever thought why one of the names of the Holy Spirit is ‘comforter’? Who needs a comforter? Certainly not the one who has no trouble, or needs no deliverance, or needs no strengthening. The weak, the grieving and the hard-pressed need a helper and counsellor.
When one suffers, all suffer
If you’re struggling because of your sin, you need a church that is tough enough to tell you and gracious enough to still love you. If you’re struggling because life is tough, you need a church that will love you not just in words but in actions because we’re a body and I know when it’s my turn I will need a family to hold me up.
Worship with tears
There are lots of reasons to love the Bible: it’s searing honesty is one of them. It has a whole book called Lamentations. You should read it. It’s saviour owns the title ‘Man of sorrows’ – the Bible knows about tears and pain, yet in Psalm 42 still calls out to the downcast soul and says, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”
Look upon Jesus
The world is broken so God sent us a healer, the world is captive to sin so He sent us a redeemer, we are lost so He sent us the way, we are confused so He sent us the truth, we are hurting so He sent us love, we are abandoned so He sent us His son to adopt us, we are bruised so He sent us one who would not crush us, we are suffering so He sent us one who would take our suffering and our shame and crucify it, we are mortal and we will die, so He sent us one who defeated the grave and will swallow up even death itself in His victory. Keep your eyes on Jesus.