The myths that Christians don't experience the many levels of emotional weakness are now shelved in the fairy tale section of the library in my head. Back in the day the Christian life was portrayed as an emotional straight line without peaks and valleys, highs or lows, or mental swings. Anxiety, depression, discouragement, loneliness, anger, remorse, grief, and so many other mental faculties were viewed as signs of an inadequate personal devotional life, or even the pretense of faith. There was the idea that faith lifted us above the norms of humanity and prevented believers from experiencing the many layers of life's darker side.
Well, it's true, faith does factor into life realities to give believers peace, hope, joy, and so many other spiritual virtues. They bring comfort and endurance in times of trial, test, or personal darkness. Still, one day Jesus reminded his disciples of an important life truth. He said, "For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45, ESV). Being a believer doesn't isolate me in a protective bubble safe from the exigencies of life. The truth of living in a broken world is just as real for me and other believers as it is for those outside the community of faith. Well, sure, my Christian lifestyle may steer me past several dangerous life tracks. Still, when it's raining I'm going to get wet too.
Step aside here for a brief moment. Some argue that this interpretation of
Matthew 5:45 produces a fatalistic, negative view of life. You know, a "woe is me"
resignation to the vagaries of a dog-eat-dog world. In the context of the Sermon on the
Mount, Jesus was teaching his disciples about loving enemies. He told them to love their
enemies as a distinctive mark of being "...sons of your Father who is in heaven". This
Father "...makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and
the unjust". It is a declaration of God's love for every human created in his image.
Good and bad are realities that touch every created being. Good things will happen to
bad people and bad things to good. Yes, fellow believers, we're going to deal with the
harsh realities of life too, even cruel emotional weaknesses.
That being so, 2 Corinthians 11,12 and 13 continue to be sources of sure guidance as I deal with the spiritual, emotional, and physical weaknesses that are part and parcel of the human experience. They record, in a very frank and open way, the Apostle Paul's personal struggles, fears, physical tests, and even anxiety. After a catalog listing of the physical tests he endured from opposing religious traditionalists, he confessed, "And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28, ESV). This giant of faith knew the mental strain of serving Christ in a broken, dysfunctional world. In a moment of frustration he asked, "Who is weak, and I am not weak?" (11:29), perhaps a sarcasm drawn from the depths of a troubled mind. I often wonder about the mind games that such severe tests would have instigated in my feeble mind.
The reflections of 2 Corinthians 11, 12, and 13, however dreadful, narrow to the point in which the Second Epistle to the church at Corinth ends. It is a glorious denouement to his brutally honest confessions. He wrote---
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one
another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11, ESV
His final note to them was a reminder, four challenges, and a promise.
1. The reminder: he told them to rejoice.
2. Challenge One: aim for restoration.
3. Challenge Two: comfort one another.
4. Challenge Three: agree with one another.
5. Challenge Four: live in peace.
6. The Promise: the God of love and peace will be with you.
Each element is profound theological truth that can't necessarily change our circumstances when we're in emotionally charged times. They do, however, affect change in us, individually and corporately. More than anything, at least for me, is the promise of his abiding presence---the God of love and peace----when I am emotionally weak. It is a promise repeated throughout Scripture, the guarantee of his abiding presence when we are fearful, anxious, or otherwise emotionally on edge. The certainty of this promise should trigger rejoicing and praise in me even at the beginning of my doubt, questions, uncertainties, fears, or other crises. His presence changes me and my emotional stance when threatened. Don't forget the often repeated promise from God..."fear not for I am with you" (Isaiah 41:10, and many others). It means that when I am alone, I am not really alone.
So that, when I am emotionally weak, I can rejoice and know peace and hope in his presence!
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