When You Can't Preach the Gospel to Yourself
Today is my birthday.Today, like Mother's Day, I woke up with one thought on my brain, "Thank you, Jesus, for keeping me alive to see this day."
It's weird what rolls through my mind these days.
I've got a cough again and each cough brings a shiver of fear that can physically shake me depending on the state of my mind. What I went through last spring, and what I go through every time I cough is frightening. I hate admitting that, but it's true.Fear is powerful. I did not think about that before this year. But now, I'm very familiar with Fear. Fear has become a close counsel, but I hate him. He lies to me. And I can speak that truth to myself but it doesn't change a thing. Because Fear lies really, really well.
Fear tells me that I'm alone. No one can help me. No one can understand.
Fear tells me to give up. Stop trying to live a full life. I'm just going to die anyway.
Fear tells me it's going to hurt. Try to escape.
Thankfully, Fear hasn't convinced me that I deserve this broken body. Or that it's someone's fault. But I know He whispers that to one of my friends. I hate that. I hate Him.
I've been at a loss on how to fight Fear. There are things that help, certainly. Reading the Psalms. Listening to praise music. Speaking the Truth out-loud.
But there are days... Days when Truth doesn't quite speak louder than Fear. On those days, I feel weak. Like a wimpy Christian. I might be embarrassed by it if I had the energy.
Then, I read the end of "Embodied Hope" by Kelly Kapic. He devotes an entire chapter to my wimpy dilemma. He says that people who deal with chronic suffering can be so worn down by the physical and emotion struggle that they can't preach the gospel to themselves. That's a phrase coined by Martyn Lloyd-Jones in "Spiritual Depression." The concept is that listening to scripture isn't the same thing as saying it to ourselves. He uses the psalms as an example because in the psalms, David speaks to his own soul. He admits his feelings but then reminds himself of the character of God, and that results in encouragement for his soul.
But what about when we can't? When we just can't preach the gospel to ourselves. I've been there. My friend has been there. Kapic says that in these moments, we can't trust ourselves to speak or know Truth. Fear, pain and loneliness distort our thinking. We need help. We need PEOPLE.This is when we need our Community to step in. Kapic uses Dietrich Bonhoeffer's wonderful book, "Life Together" to explain that we need safe, trusted friends to speak our fears to. To confess our sins to. To receive grace from. To be pointed back to worship. Back to Jesus.
"When we are alone with our sins, we may see and feel only darkness. But with the physical presence of our fellow believer, light breaks into the darkness." - Kelly Kapic, "Embodied Hope"
I have had dark days. On any given day, I'm one cough away from going back into the darkness. Thankfully, I have those trusted friends who so lovingly, so faithfully, shower me with grace and point my heart back towards light.
Do you? Do you have those friends?
Do you have a friend who struggles with dark days? GO be with them. Listen to them. Bring them grace and light. "Being with is a difficult practice that displays peace and assurance of standing in the shadow of the cross." Go do hard things.