The ladies in my church had a get-together Sunday evening. To break the ice, we were divided into random groups and given several questions prepared by our hostess. These questions weren't the typical "What is your favorite color? What was your most embarrassing moment?" Rather her intent was to encourage us to go beyond small talk and delve a little deeper. Two of the questions were:
- Do you feel you need to portray a perfect front?
- Do you have sin in your life that you are struggling with and need prayer?
My group had a very good discussion, but there were two observations from the pastor's wife that struck home. First, we may be willing to let others know about our struggles but only after the fact. Second, we may be maintaining a front even though it's not the "I am the perfect Christian woman who has it all together" variety. It may take the form of making sure others see how well we handle our brokenness.
Does this ring a bell? It does for me.
We like happy endings and success stories, so it's easy to think experiencing triumph is the epitome of the Christian life. The prayers were answered. The sin was conquered. The problem was solved. We don't have much stamina either, so the quicker God moves, the better. If He comes through according to our expectations, hallelujah! But what if He chooses otherwise? What if the battle with sin is lifelong or the circumstances don't change? If I am only willing to share my struggles when they are over, I could be waiting a very long time trying to hold out on my own. In addition, I may like the idea of portraying the strong Christian woman weathering adversity with a brave face, but I don't get to choose the scene of my martyrdom that will show off my good side. 1
But what if the point isn't sprinting across the finish line in record time, but knowing God in every halting, baby step along the way? So instead of grumbling, "Here we go again", my attitude could be, "Lord, thank You for another opportunity to cast my cares on You." "Thank You for being faithful and just to forgive my sins even if it's for the nth time today." Rather than feeling like a burden when asking for prayer from the church, God could be using a drawn-out situation to increase love among the saints and strengthen the bonds of fellowship.
What if grace not only grants deliverance but gives patient endurance year after year? It may not wear the champion's laurels, but be incognito, dressed in the plain clothes of the long-term struggles of life. God's grace is present and sufficient even when it's hiding in plain sight.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9
1. My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers, reading for November 11.