I’m going to preach to myself a bit. Feel free to listen in.
One of my heroes tweeted this just a few minutes ago.
If Tullian’s isn’t a familiar name to you, I would strongly urge you to get to know him. He’s a successful author and conference speaker. He’s Billy Graham’s grandson and the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. But he’s not a guy unacquainted with brokenness. He doesn’t have a super glitzy past. He’s been places and done things. It’s because of this that when he speaks to me of God’s “One Way Love” for me — His completely unconditional acceptance that disregards my sin in favor of Christ’s sinlessness credited to my account — I listen more attentively than when I hear similar things from shiny, golden people. (Clicking on the graphic above will take you to a collection of his blogs for The Gospel Coalition.)
The message was one I needed to hear today. That’s a really sanitized way to say it. It hit me like a life-preserver, honestly. In the last week, I’ve almost shut this blog down at least three times. I’m nearly 75% convinced right now that the ideas I write about, while theoretically and biblically sound, are utterly unrealistic in any sort of practical application. I guess I just continue to find far more evidence that it won’t work. I had a 4.5 hour phone conversation this week, one where I really opened up about some of my past and struggles. The unmistakable response was that I should suck it up, keep it to myself, and abandon the idea that I was ever going to find a community to proactively help push me toward Jesus. No one wants to know about deeply dark struggles, Rick. It’s not fair to tell them and place the weight on them of figuring out a response.
Sometimes I get tired of admitting that I’m struggling again. “Again?” Sometimes I get tired of admitting that this is a nearly perpetual struggle for me. I long for a community that walks and wrestles together … really together. I know the guy I had the marathon phone session with isn’t alone. I’m sure I have a lot of friends who wish I would abandon this idea. People for whom it’s awkward and difficult to really reach out and grab hold of someone’s messy hand. Particularly the hand of one who keeps needing it. I know this is hard. I get it.
I know how pathetic this sounds. I probably won’t even re-read it before I hit “publish.” It makes me sound weak, helpless, and needy. In short, it makes me sound like all the things I am. That’s why I almost shut down the blog. I’m tired of looking like what I am. I’m tired of not being able to pretend I’m “shiny.”
Okay, enough of that. Here’s the preaching.
Tozer has a quote I found recently that I also grabbed hold of like a drowning man. It says “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” Here’s the quote in context:
The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined. Thus, it is necessary for God to use suffering in his holy work of preparing his saints, it is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
God, I hope that’s what’s happening. I hope You’re doing all of this for some reason. I’m so tired of hurting.
What if it’s just blind, legalistic consequences of sin? What if it’s just brokenness for the sake of brokenness? I’m not sure I can face the long view with that sort of prognosis. Yeah, we all want to gently speak to the righteous sufferer … “Hey, God uses all things to work out His eternal glory and your eternal good.” But what about the sinner? What about the guy who’s suffering because of his actions? What about the guy that wouldn’t be where he was if he hadn’t done bad things? What do we say to him?
I’m just going to end by saying these things to him (me), and continue to hold out hope that God was talking about him (me) when He said them.
For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help,
The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy he will save.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
II Corinthians 1:3-5
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
I Peter 5:10
The Lord sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.