Wouldn’t it be great if people came with manuals?
We would never have to worry about sticking our foot in our mouths because there would be a rulebook. We wouldn’t have to worry about things like awkward silences, hurt feelings, or bruised egos because there would be a script.
Is your wife struggling after a miscarriage? Turn to page 519. Are you single and discouraged with the wait? Page 59.
Alas, no such rulebook exists. People are complicated creatures. And why shouldn’t they be? They are made in the image of the most complex Being in existence, the triune Creator of the universe. God reveals himself to us in his word, but even that is just a small snippet of who he actually is!
And yet how many times do we mash the revelation of God’s word into pat slogans to attack the world’s problems? “The Gospel is the answer!” How convenient that the entire counsel of the Bible is diminished to a pat answer for our deepest problems — less like a textbook, and more like the microwave instructions on a carton of Ramen.
The Gospel Is The Answer
In a world full of complex beings, there are bound to be complex problems. As believers, we have been called to dwell in this world until Christ returns, spreading the message of the Gospel in the hope and the knowledge that God will save sinners for his glory. Our most pressing issues have been laid at the foot of the Cross.
Whatever struggles we face in this life pale in comparison to the glory that we have been promised in eternity. In our sinfulness, we deserved death, hell, and the grave, and yet, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Now, those for whom Christ died are God’s sons and daughters, through faith (Galatians 3:26). And he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) — he will never leave, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even in moments where we feel most abandoned, he is near (Psalm 34:18) — and he is at work (Romans 8:28). In the mire of our deepest regret, in the pit of our deepest longing, the Gospel shines as our truest hope: we have been justified, we have been adopted, we are his.
Yes and amen. The Gospel is the answer. You will get no argument from me on that point.
But… what exactly is the question?
We live in a culture that is uncomfortable with vulnerability.
This discomfort extends far outside of the bounds of the Church — it lurks everywhere. We are people who are only comfortable with anecdotal intimacy: you can only be vulnerable with me if you can express whatever problem you’re handling with a solution. We want neat and tidy stories like Aesop’s Fables.
We have become so frightened of a culture where emotionalism reigns supreme that we are uncomfortable with any displays of emotion that aren’t immediately followed by a fix. We want facts over feelings, answers over questions, strength over honesty — and we could not care less about unique experiences.
Enter the mantra “The Gospel is the answer” and you have a recipe for a guilt trip. How could a Christian — hurting though she may be — deny this simple fact? Even when the sentence often does nothing to promote real comfort and direction? Are we allowed to say that the Gospel isn’t enough?
Well, no — because the Gospel is always enough. It is the only truth that gives our lives here on this earth real meaning. But simply saying “the Gospel is enough” is not sufficient. Sure, it saves a lot of time and turns the Bible into a handy dandy, people-fixing manual. But it’s not enough.
Jesus Is Enough
The truth of the Gospel gives us our ultimate source of hope in this fallen world. And it also gives us our ultimate source of patience with fallen people. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son (John 3:16), not in one single day where he died on the Cross real quick and then ascended back into heaven, but for years of intensive ministry with broken people. If anyone understood the complexity of mankind, it is Christ himself, who lived as a man and is intimately acquainted with our struggles (Hebrews 4:15).
Our Savior is not merely sympathetic, but empathetic. He did not shake his head on the sidelines because he could imagine what we were going through — he lived it, complete with a painful death in our stead.
[clickToTweet tweet=”There is space in God’s plan for mourning, even when there isn’t space in our comfort zones.” quote=”There is space in God’s plan for mourning, even when there isn’t space in our comfort zones.”]
Empathy takes time. It demands a listening ear. It requires treating people, not like cars with manuals stuffed in the dash, but like — well, people. It takes, not just spouting off, “The Gospel is enough!” but preaching the Gospel and being willing to apply it to specific situations, even when it takes more time than tossing out a slogan and moving right along.
It takes being willing to sit in those vulnerable moments for a beat, and not immediately hearing a hurting heart and shouting, “But what do you want from me? How can I fix it?” Because you can’t fix this world we live in — only God can. And he is not working on our timetable, but his.
It’s okay to be broken for longer than the five minutes it takes someone to give you a pat answer for your suffering. There is space in God’s plan for mourning (Romans 12:15), even when there isn’t space in our comfort zones. The power of His word is so much bigger than a few pat answers — it can stand up to an entire relationship (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12) lived out for his glory.
I’m not making these proclamations as a voice from on high. My social media forays bring out just as much pettiness in me as I see in others. If we’re talking logs and specks, I’m walking around with a California redwood lodged in my eye. Here are three things I would love to see less of (and more of) on social media.