This life is often difficult.
Maybe that is why I have always identified with the people in the church and community who at times just find life to be tough. I get a little suspicious of people who seem to have everything all figured out. You know these people. Their marriages are just right. Their kids are just right. Their work? Why it is the perfect job! School? They are loving all of their classes.
Meanwhile, I think life is often difficult. Marriage is sometimes very difficult. My wife and I have a good marriage. But — at times our marriage has been difficult. Rearing children is sometimes very challenging. I love my children, but at times it has been extraordinarily difficult to be a parent. I am a minister. I love being a minister and the work I have been called to do. Yet, it can be very difficult.
What makes it difficult to live in reality? Here are a few obstacles:
1. Being with people who pretend that it is very spiritual to talk as if everything, all of the time, is just absolutely wonderful. These people can create environments where those who struggle begin to think they must not be very spiritual because their lives are not like that. There are people who suffer and live with excruciating pain. I think of the woman in our church whose pain was so intense during our worship service recently that she went to her car and laid down in the back seat.
2. Being with people who see themselves as some of the very, very few who "get it." They have a way of being very condescending to those who they perceive as not really getting it. These people can spend much time and energy evaluating and critiquing others in the body of Christ. What happens as a result? People in the churches learn not to say anything about their real thoughts, their real feelings, and their real doubts. After all, who wants to be critiqued, evaluated, and talked to with that condescending tone?
3. Being with people who are so busy with their own lives, their meetings, their schedules, and their concerns that they aren’t fully present with other people. (Been there. Been guilty of this one!)
I don’t want to be any of these people. I want to be a person who can be a friend to someone who finds life difficult. However, such a friendship and presence needs to come out of my own life with God.
I like what Randy Harris says in a chapter entitled "Spirituality for the Busy, Frantic, and Overwhelmed."
Glenn Hinson argues that what the church needs most are saints — people who have truly placed their lives under God’s will and control. We don’t just need leaders with greater skill, we need leaders who are deep people. Do you hear the call to lead out of your own deep spiritual life?
If we learn to pray the way Jesus prayed, read the Bible in a transforming way, practice God’s presence in the everyday routine of life, and catch the vision of the God who works in all things, we can be the deep leaders the church needs. And in the process we will discover that true spirituality is not one more activity to add to overburdened lives but a way of living that drives our drivenness away. Then we discover the blessedness to lead without guilt and that the promise of Jesus rings true — the yoke is easy and the burden is light.
(Harris in Like a Shepherd Lead Us, p. 31)
Why is it that some of us go to great lengths to convince one another that our lives are almost perfect, without struggle? What is our fear? What impact do we have on those who are really struggling with life when we communicate that our lives are very near perfect and without struggle?