Since when does being a Christian mean that you check your sensitivity and empathy at the door?
It’s something that I just don’t understand and something that generally infuriates me.
A blog-friend of mine has been going through a harrowing ordeal. She battled breast cancer into remission once only to have it return with a vengeance less than a year later. She beat it back again only to find another lump not long ago. Understandably, that sent her mind spinning, and she understandably expressed that this has caused her to doubt God.
It didn’t take long before scores of ‘the faithful’ showed up in droves to evangelize her. I sat back and read in disbelief as person after person after person threw platitudes at her, urged her to ‘trust in Jesus’ and ‘gently’ berated her for her doubt. It made me want to scream. Folks who had never read the blog before showed up simply to ‘do the work of God.’ With every comment I cringed a little more.
My thinking was this: If I was facing the thought of battling the beast that is cancer for the third time in far less than two years, and I expressed this struggle, it would make me shrink away from God to be so zealously pelted with platitudes and evangelistic cliches. It would make me even angrier. It would give me even more reason to doubt. For as I read it seemed that His children were lying in wait to pelt a person in their weakness all ‘in the name of Jesus.’
It seemed to only get worse when she posted that the lump was found to be nothing. Then ‘the faithful’ seemed to come dangerously close to congratulating themselves for praying so hard that ‘God would show Himself,’ and instead of simply being thankful and happy with my friend, they ‘gently’ berated her for still having doubts.
I am a Christian. I strive to keep my love of Christ at the center of my life. I don’t always do a good job, but I try to throw myself into His grace.
There is this sense when people get really hot and bothered to evangelize someone that everything they do drips with ulterior motive. We must speak gracefully and passionately, to gain them to the kingdom. We must act lovingly to win them to Christ. We must strive to make our behaviour the purest possible to influence them for God.
I can’t help but think…. NO! NO! We must love because God called us to. We must love for the sake of loving. If a person comes closer to Christ as a result, then fantastic… But it seems so phony to me to do things simply with that motive in mind.
It seems terribly insensitive to me to beat someone about the head with Christian-speak when they are in a battle for their life… When they are battling pain, and depression, and the thought of not seeing their children grow up. It seems cruel to me to speak of running to God in the face of one who feels bereft by Him.
When I am in those places, all I want is for someone to sit with me. To let me know that I am ok there—that though I may be doubting Him, if the God who is good really is, He will meet me there with grace. I need to be told this not with eloquent words, but with a hand slipped into mine, or a soft shoulder to sink into… or with a wordless presence in the chair next to mine.
And what is so wrong with doubt anyway? I have come to believe that a healthy dose of doubt can actually strengthen one’s faith. It keeps us from being mindless drones parrotting back every platitude we are offered at church or on Christian radio, or that we absorb in the Christian book store. Life is hard… Faith is hard. There are so many things that are inexplainable… paradoxical (yes, thank you Dr. Mannoia). Why lie to oneself about that? Why not be honest about it–to oneself, to others, even to God. Isn’t He Big enough to meet us even there?
I think all of these thoughts… and then I think of my blogfriend, and the grace that she has shown. Rather than shrinking away from these words, or lashing back, she remembers the intentions of the commenters are likely good and gives them the benefit of the doubt. She says that she knows that these things comfort them and so they don’t upset her.
That is where the convinction comes in for me… I can feel pretty self-righteous about all of this. And… too often (yes… this time… can you tell?) I do. I don’t want to show grace. I want to spit back and engage in a rousing game of “I’m a better Christian than you.”
But, though it seems so calculating and insensitive to me, the intent of these folks is to be loving… To offer someone the hope that they have found. I’ve been known to be over-zealous about things myself sometimes.
So I’m talking to God about this–about my self-righteous knee-jerk reactions… and what it means to speak truth in these situations. Over at The Manning Board a discussion has begun about whether or not Christians serve to be ‘lamps on a hill’ or ‘super high-powered flashlights trained on people’s faces’ (thanks Meems!).
May I strive to be a the former.