This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for June 9 2019.
I have been reading and thinking lately on how people who suffer under enduring spiritual problems can be helped toward life-long perseverance. It is not the acute, sudden crises of faith that I have in mind here, but the chronic, long lasting struggles. I think especially of the internal burdens that carry some kind of shame or embarrassment, that are difficult to talk about openly. It can be hard to really appreciate how challenging it is for some people to continue as Christians, and just how easy and attractive it is to simply tap out. Are we equipping people to process and understand these struggles well? Are we providing the support for them to hang in there while they do?
This is not something I have previously put a great deal of thought into, but there are several things that I think should be helpful. The first is a theological framework within which to process faith-struggles. In other words: is their view of God and of the Christian life both big enough and comprehensive enough to handle long-lasting difficulties even if they are not resolved this side of eternity? A second helpful thing is an open and supportive church community. Many of us (I include myself) find a culture of openness uncomfortable, and so shy away from sharing struggles. We can easily give the impression that we all have life sorted well enough that we don’t need to talk about the hard parts.
The problem is, not all of us do. Some of us will need to know where, when and how to open up to others. People need examples to follow – braver souls who find and show a path that others can take after them.
The ideas here are only brief, and need to be fleshed out and put to working use. Perhaps you would work on these in your own small patch of your Christian community? All believers can make some contribution to this. Big or small, simple or profound, all contributions are valuable and will help the most vulnerable members of the body of Christ.