We live in an age of fierce individuality. Whether a result of this era, western civilization, or the impact of technology and social media, we are more and more focused on self than ever before. Sadly enough, Christians are no exception. Our spiritual walk is highly individualized. We want a bible catered to our place in life (Eg: the Women’s Bible, the Grandmother’s Bible, the Couple’s Bible, Bible magazines for teens, the Serenity bible [12 step recovery help]). We don’t want to commit to a local church because our Christian walk is a private issue. We want to be more ‘spiritual’ than ‘religious’.
We say the right things, speaking highly of community or of ‘doing life’ together, but when it comes down to it, we don’t really want what that involves. Scripture commands encouragement, exhortation, accountability, (Mt. 18:15-20, Eph. 4:11-16, 2 Tim. 4:2-5), and we use those words often, we fall kicking and screaming when someone dares use it against us.
I had the opportunity to have a talk with friends the other week regarding areas for growth in my life. We had set a time to meet, and I was ready, looking forward to the chance to grow. Or so I thought. I was good until we hit the point in the conversation where they pointed out the specific areas I was weak in (read: areas I was sinning in). Instantly my muscles tensed, my stomach knotted, and my guard went up. My head reeled with the thoughts, “They don’t understand! They don’t know what I’ve been through! They don’t know how hard I’ve already worked on this!” My heart cried, “They’re judging me! The bible says not to judge! They need to be forgiving and have grace where I’m struggling!” These are good friends, friends who love me, who want to help me, but as soon as my individualized spirituality was threatened, I balked. When someone challenged me in an area I didn’t want to be challenged, I bristled.
And I think that’s a normal reaction. At least, normal in the sense of common… not in the sense of it being what it ought. You see, we want to think we’re unique. Heck- we’re told we’re unique from childhood—by self-help gurus, school-teachers, even Christian leaders.
We cling to that originality desperately, but it’s that same individuality that leaves us so isolated. Look at the teenager who whines that his/her parents just don’t get them. Or the employee who says no one knows what its like to work for such a terrible boss. Or the mother at home with yet another sick child, believing that nobody understands how alone and tired she is.
It’s not that each of those situations isn’t hard. They are extremely hard! In fact, they’re so hard, that God knew we couldn’t handle it by ourselves! So He left us help.
He left us an instruction manual of what to do and how to respond.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16-17
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Phil. 4:8
He gave us warnings that we’ll feel alone, but not to turn into ourselves but seek others for help.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jer. 17:9.
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Prov. 15:22
He gave us the church, a group of people just like us, struggling to make godly choices, to encourage us when we’re doing well and give us a good ‘talking-to’ when we’re doing poorly.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Prov 27:17
If we say nobody understands us, we essentially say that no one has the right to speak into our lives. If we bemoan the fact that what we’re going through is special, then we begin to believe that a new set of rules applies to us, not anyone else’s advice, not even scripture. In truth, we’re not special. We’re not unique.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Ecc. 1:9
And thank goodness! Because really, who wants to be alone in this world? Who wants to be such a special case that even God doesn’t know what to do with him?
Fortunately, we’re not.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Heb. 4:15
So be comforted by this, and work towards this. It means we have no excuse. It means we’ll have to work hard. It means we’ll have to endure some tough conversations. But it means we can grow. And it means we’re not alone.
*I’m happy to say the conversation with my friends ended well, and has opened the door for better communication between us. You might even say our friendship is better than before... Imagine that!