Free to Struggle


In Chapter Five of his book "UnStuck: A Nine Step Journey to Change that Lasts," Dr. Tim Lane discusses the need for us all to carefully consider and examine the responses we exhibit to life's troubling circumstances. As Christians, we know that whether we're faced with a personal sin issue or a matter of suffering that comes from outside of us, our reactions to them are always germane to our process of sanctification. If we're to continue becoming more and more like Christ, then we must not, as Lane cautions, live in denial that sometimes our responses to circumstances are as unhelpful as the issues we face.

One of the most difficult truths for us to come to terms with is that, even when we've been victimized, we are not, as it were, off the "holy hook" when it comes to how we live in response. When we consider the life of Jesus, we see this principle and others exemplified with perfection. When Jesus faced intense suffering, he did not respond sinfully, but instead sought to bring glory to his Father above all. Jesus trusted in his Father's justice as he walked in righteousness in response to the world's wickedness.

Faced with our own seasons of trial, we may find ourselves living in denial or shame, especially concerning how we've chosen to react to whatever it is we face. But, Lane reminds us that, "The language of the gospel is that you are free to struggle; you are not struggling so that you can be free." In other words, in both the struggle that we face, and our failures in response, God has not abandoned us, but waits to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18).

We Are Free to Struggle

Let's read a very helpful paragraph from Chapter Five of Lane's book:

God accepts you because Jesus has paid for your guilt and shame. He doesn’t tell you to work on your guilt and shame so that maybe he will accept you. So slow down and take a moment to thank God for his grace. Take a few deep breaths as you meditate on God’s love, which he has so richly lavished on you (1 John 3 v 1). You are living under a monsoon of God’s love for you in Christ.

Let's "slow down," as Lane counsels us, and consider carefully each clause of the paragraph above together with some probitive questions to help us get "unstuck." Work hard to answer these questions in full sentences.

1. When you think in detail about your guilt and/or the shame you carry, how do you sometimes struggle to believe that God accepts you? In what ways do your unhelpful responses to life circumstances exhibit a heart of unbelief as regards this acceptance?

2. When you examine your responses to hardship, how do they evidence a heart that may not always be resting in the assurance of God's unending grace toward his children, but in works of self-help, or what we may call a works-rightouesness system of belief? (Think: "In by grace" but "stay in by works.")

3. When is the last time that you stopped to thank God not only for his work in you in the good times, but in the hard times as well? How are you learning to take joy in the various trials that you face (James 1:2)?

4. Take time to read, write down, and memorize 1 John 3:1. What does it mean to you, in the specific context of your trial, to be a child of God?

5. How has your struggle been to you a "spiritual desert"? How does the Bible testify to you that, in fact, if you are God's child, you stand in the midst of a "monsoon of God's love for you in Christ"?

Jim Newheiser, in a blog post at ACBC, recently exhorted his audience to emphasize "fighting well over feeling well." Thinking in accordance with how Lane has taught us in this short assignment may help us along that very road, and in the meantime, cultivate responses to our struggles that bring glory to God, and joy to our hearts.

Final Reflection:

How has this assignment encouraged you to neither live in denial or in shame, but to trust in the Spirit's work in you during this time of sanctifying hardship?