I was recently involved in a discussion with a rather large group of Christians. I say I was involved, but in actuality I was much more of a listener than I was a speaker, I walked away from this discussion rather discouraged. Don’t get me wrong, there was much talk about God, and Jesus, and his mighty works. We looked to the Scriptures and pondered the goodness of God, especially in what he has done for His people in Christ. These are all wonderful things that should encourage the best of us.
What discouraged me though, was far too frequently, what filled the room wasn’t honest observations about God and the struggle that is faith…but more than that, it was a discussion filled with Christian cliches. One after the other I heard folks talk about how great their faith was, and how confident they were in their walk. A couple of times the conversation touched on how often some of the folks prayed, and what wonderful experiences they had in prayer. I walked away from the discussion feeling as if I’d just been in the room with a group of super-saints.
“Chris, that is awesome!” I can already hear you saying. “What’s wrong with people being confident in their faith? What’s wrong with people being faithful in prayer?”
Nothing is wrong with people being confident in their faith. Nothing is wrong with someone being faithful in prayer. I rejoice that we have folks within the church that can make these claims. But, my issue is all too often this isn’t me, and I think for the majority of us, faith is much more of a struggle than we’d like to admit. My hunch is, that not everyone making these claims are as confident in their walks with God, or in their prayer life as they’d like for the rest of us to think. And the problem is, for someone struggling in their faith, the most discouraging thing I can imagine is getting in a room with a bunch of “Super-Christians” who never have doubts and never struggle.
The truth is I struggle sometimes with prayer. Sometimes I just don’t want to. Yes, I’ve had powerful moments of prayer. Yes, I love conversing with God. But, sometimes life is hard. Sometimes, I get caught up in the everyday. Sometimes, I just simply don’t want to pray. Sometimes, I’m even frustrated with God when things aren’t going my way. Is this wrong? Certainly. But, we also see throughout the Scriptures, especially in the Psalms this is a very real aspect in the lives of the people of God. Struggling with, and in prayer is simply a reality of a life of faith. Perhaps, instead of pretending it doesn’t happen we ought to be honest about it…perhaps this is an area that we could pray for each other about.
Want to hear something else? Sometimes I have doubts. Sometimes I wonder if God actually hears my prayers. Sometimes, I have a hard time believing that God is true to his promises. As opposed to a super-saint “boldly approaching the throne of grace”, I’m much more like the father in Mark 9:24 and the only prayer I can utter is, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” And you know what? I think this is a perfectly reasonable prayer. Actually, I think it’s the most honest prayer most of us can muster many days. I know in my brain that God is real. I know he good and just. I know he has my best interest at heart. I even know that he is able to perform miracles. I know that in him, my eternity is secure. Yet, their are days I struggle to wrap my mind around that. There are days where in my heart of hearts I simply struggle to accept this truth as a reality. And the truth is, I don’t believe I’m alone in this.
While I’m bearing my soul…I’m far from a Super-Saint. I’m actually quite a sinner. Sometimes when the reality of my sins, and the depth of the depravity of my own heart hits me, I get discouraged. These are the times I find myself struggling in prayer, and struggling with doubt. While I know my own heart better than everyone else does, and while I don’t know anyone else’s heart, I still think that I’m not alone in this either. And while we should never grow comfortable in our sin, or the reality of the fact that we will never attain the lived perfection that Christ had as he walked the earth, I do think we should come to grips with our sinfulness on some level. As opposed to pretending we aren’t sinners, and acting as if we have no struggles, we ought to say with the tax collector in Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!”
I believe there are many parallels between the scene in Luke 18:12-14 and my own experience in my recent discussion. As people were talking about the greatness of their faith and the strength of their prayer lives…all I could do was sit there and think about was how far what I was hearing was from what I was experiencing on a regular basis. While everyone else was presenting themselves as super-saints, in my mind I was beating my breast and begging for the mercy of God on a wretched sinner.
I suppose some would read this and say that I’m guilty of exactly what I’m accusing others of. They might even be right. Perhaps I’m attempting to paint the picture that my life of faith is more authentic than someone else’s. Perhaps I’m just jealous that I’m not where these other folks are. Perhaps I’m wrong, and they really aren’t putting forth a facade, and their faith and prayer lives are every bit as vibrant as they say…Who am I to make that call?
The point of this post is simply this. Let’s be honest about our faith. Let’s be honest about our struggles. Let’s not pretend to be something we aren’t. If all unbelievers and even new believers see is a bunch of people who never struggle with life, or sin, or faith, what are they going to do when these things creep up in their own lives? Let’s be honest about our struggles, so that we can help each other out when they are going through those times themselves. Let’s be honest about our doubts and our sins, so that others who have been there can lift us up and pray for us and with us as we go through the trials of life. Certainly we can have confidence in our faith…Certainly we can boldly approach the throne of grace…But this is true even in these struggles and doubts and as our own frailties weigh heavy on our minds.