Feeble Knees

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Both IreneQ and Rick at Brutally Honest are in my thoughts today. If you have a moment, stop by and encourage them. I don't know the details of either one's particular situation, but my heart goes out to them.

It is a common for Christians to go through a valley, a storm, a trial, a desert, a winter of discontent. Regardless of what you call it, it stinks; it positively rots, and I say that in the nicest sense of the word. It's lonely, it's scary, and you can't wait for it to end. Heaven seems silent, and you're left with your own devices to drive yourself crazy with doubts and fears. Or so it seems.

There are a few things that are decidedly UNHELPFUL to say to someone in a situation like this. They are, in no particular order:

  • You just have to keep pressing in.

  • Be thankful for what you have and snap out of it.

  • God's just testing you.

  • Claim the victory!

  • You must have a stronghold in your life, a place where you've given in to the devil. Repent now!

  • I know exactly how you feel (followed by an hour long discourse of one's own problems, which naturally, must be worse than the struggling person's.)

Why we pass through certain stages at certain times is a mystery. Sometimes specific events contribute to our feelings of lostness; other times there is no one particular thing you can set your finger on - you just feel adrift.

I remember sitting in a sanctuary one night, feeling adrift, crummy and vulnerable. A visiting evangelist was preaching like a firebrand. As the congregation got louder and more whoop-dee-doo, I got more and more depressed. What on earth was wrong with me? Clearly it must be me. As the band struck up a rowdy, rafter-raising tune I looked desperately for someplace to hide, under the pew perhaps. Soon folks were leaving their seats to march in victory laps, raising their hands, shouting and singing about the wondrous love of Jesus. It was too much for me. I got up and made a break for the exit then ran up the back stairs. I knew the balcony was unfinished, no one was up there. I could sit quietly and try to make some sense of what was going on. Mostly, I didn't want to be accosted by well-meaning prayer warriors who might mistake my condition for something it wasn't. Maybe it was me, maybe I had grown cold-hearted, perhaps I was losing my first love for Christ - but it was going to be between Him and me, and we were going to work it out alone, together.

As I rounded the corner into the balcony, I was met by the sight of the sound technician with hands raised, marching as far around the sound booth as her headset cable would allow.

That did it. I was out of there!

The unique thing about a desert experience is it seems almost specifically designed to isolate you from the body of Christ. No one else's answers can satisfy the drought in your soul. You must find what you need from God on your own. It is your private garden of Gethsemane.

There seems to be a misconception about this in the church. What is needed at a time like this is encouragement, understanding, a recognition of the situation. What is not needed is an exhortation to repent. Usually the soul undertaking this trying time is already tormented by the thought that they're failing to live up to God's standard, and they are despairing of ever being able to really live the Good Christian™ life. You don't need to remind them of their shortcomings and weaknesses.

Likewise, if it were so easy to snap out of it, we gladly would. We'd jump out of our funk in a heartbeat. The sly implication that we are looking for sympathy or a pity-party only adds further condemnation.

The idea that God is testing our shaky faith doesn't provide much comfort either, and casts Him in the role of a frighteningly stern Schoolmarm, poised to strike us with a ruler if we don't make the grade. Again, this is not exactly helpful.

To those claim the victory & stronghold folks I have just this to say: Respectfully, Please Just Go Read Another Blog. Thank you. I would do better to hit myself repeatedly in the head with a brick than attempt to argue with the likes of you.

What does help then? Time. Time, time, and more time. Reading the Word, small bites at a time. Do not attempt to digest Revelation. You might want to avoid the endless litany of identical offerings made in Numbers 7. Instead, read accounts of those who likewise struggled: Job, David (Psalms), Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

Consider that you are loved far beyond even your capacity to comprehend it. Spend some time trying to fathom the Love who counted it joy to die that you might live this crummy life. Amazing, isn't it?

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