Question: I’m Struggling, But Church Keeps Saying Just “Read Your Bible”

May 7, 2013 — 35 Comments



Anonymous asked:

For Christians struggling with their faith, other Christians often try to offer the best advice they can, but how do you feel about Christians who keep telling those who are struggling to just “read their Bible?” In my “struggling” years when I was becoming serious with my relationship with Christ, I have often come across that advice countless times, and every time, I have always felt that there was a problem with that advice. Not that it was “wrong” but it almost never felt “right.”


Dear friend: any time someone tells you, “Just read your Bible,” they’re saying it because –

1) They’re not really sure what else to say, or

2) They’re not willing to invest their time to hear you out.

To be fair, I can completely understand when someone falls back on easy advice: because giving advice is hard and it sounds right to throw the Bible at something.  It’s a one-size-fits-all trump-card that sounds very spiritual.

But for the most part, this is such a cold, distant, snobby, self-absorbed way to say, “I don’t really care about your problem, so you figure it out for yourself.” 

See: I believe the Bible tells us that we’re designed to work through our issues together, both personally and intellectually. (Isaiah 1:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 5:21, 1 Peter 3:15, Acts 17:11-12, 1 John 4:1).  So the Bible more than anything opens the way to thoughtful nuanced conversation that covers the entire human spectrum of intellect and emotion. 

Instead, a lot of people use the Bible as a protective shield to say, “The answer is probably in there somewhere” — because people are not willing to get messy and dig deep into the issues that plague us.

 

Please know: God completely understands our struggle.  Since He became one of us, He understands us even more profoundly than we could understand ourselves.  The Big Secret of every single Christian is that we all struggle, we all have doubts and tough questions and idolatrous tendencies, and that’s simply a part of our human experience. God preempted that, which is why He enacted the sending of His Son before the very creation of the universe. 

You got the first step right: you’re approaching with the honesty that somehow, our tiny prepackaged church answers won’t be enough for this.

While some of us have really been gifted with a huge victorious faith (Ephesians 4:7), others will be barely hanging on: and that’s okay.  When Moses parted the Red Sea, both the super-spiritual and highly skeptical walked through — because our faith is not based on its own amount, but on the object of our faith Himself.

 

The best thing I can tell you is to find a trustworthy mentor who will work through these issues with you and will actually pour out their time for you. 

There will be many times in life where there are no pat answers or quick solutions, but just the need for a daily presence who will struggle alongside you.  We have Jesus, who roots for you every step of the way, and God has given us good people who are more than willing to hear you out and walk the walk with you. 

That kind of trustworthy person bleeds the Bible, and they will point to the Word in a way that isn’t trite, easy, or simplistic: because they get the struggle, too.  They will tell you not just the what, but the how from the Bible and pull it all together, all the while encouraging you to think for yourself. Their advice won’t be so many cliches, but a visceral pulsating everyday intimacy who picks up a hammer and gets to work on this faith-thing together.



– J.S.



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35 responses to Question: I’m Struggling, But Church Keeps Saying Just “Read Your Bible”

  1. 

    I thought I would confirm your post today because there is a powerful truth in what yoi say. The gospel of Jesus is designed to have the most impact and power when we fellowship. Jesus said where two or three are gathered together; there he I am in the midst of thee! Great post!

    • 

      God bless my brother, I appreciate your comments and encouragement. And God knows we need His help in the fellowship, it’s not easy ..!

  2. 

    Quotable: “When Moses parted the Red Sea, both the super-spiritual and highly skeptical walked through — because our faith is not based on its own amount, but on the object of our faith Himself.” Great thought, man.

  3. 

    I am sorry normally I ignore spelling and other errors but I said, “he I” and I meant I. As in quoting scripture not as in I myeslf and me. The location of that error could really be misunderstood as to who I think I am and I most definitly am not Jesus!

  4. 

    Thank you for a great post
    We all need to work together in our Faith Journey – I am speaking for myself when I say this: Whenever I am struggling – I get silent and go inside myself – but when I finally talk to someone trusted “Angel Warriors” here on this Earth – I am always, always touched by their faith which adds to my faith. They start the prayers for my struggle and guide me to different readings and articles
    God Bless

  5. 

    Great post! It starts with being honest with ourselves. :)

  6. 

    I was led to your blog by Susie over at Stumbling into Grace…amazing! God has such a way of connecting the dots, as I just wrote about encouraging one another this morning! Look forward to following you on your journey. Blessings, Brother.

  7. 

    I appreciate your honesty in dealing with a very real issue for many followers of Jesus. I agree with the two reasons you listed as to why people offer “just read your Bible.” It can be just an easy out, but I think there is a third possibility. Doing so has been a legitimate help to them (which I’ve heard people share) and so they offer their best solution. Doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for everyone. It’s human nature to assume that whatever works for me will/should work for everyone but that kind of assumption can lead to some serious frustration. But not everyone who offers “just read your Bible” is taking the easy way out.

    I whole-heartedly agree that we were meant to wrestle with these issues in a relational context. Nothing energizes me more than that kind of encounter. But this isn’t always readily available for everyone. Another option is a book by someone who has traveled that path. On the issue of “doubt” John Ortberg’s “Faith & Doubt” is a great example.

    Thanks for keeping it real and being such an encouragement to others in their pursuit of God!

    • 

      Absolutely agree, and I wish I had been more fair on that point. In fact I would add that if someone tells me to “read your Bible,” I really want to know where, how, and why — and even how it helped you.

      Ortberg’s “Faith and Doubt” is indeed an awesome book and I wholly recommend it to everyone.

  8. 

    So true. The Bible isn’t a pain killer. We may pray, worship, & abide in God’s word but still hurt deeply. Those are hard times.

  9. 

    This. Is. Discipleship.

    Most Christians say they want to disciple, until they find out what that entails. Then, they back off…or worse, back out.

    Life is messy. Not “you need to clean your room” messy, but Valentine’s Day massacre messy. Working through life itself is hard enough; now toss in a faith element (especially where people hold perfection above grace) and it gets really bloody. The sad thing is, most of the time those wounds are either self-inflicted or “un-faithful friend” inflicted – or both.

    Glibly throwing out verses at someone, or just telling them “go to the Bible”, seems to me to be saying “you aren’t worth my time to invest in you”. Saying you don’t know how to help, or not knowing the Bible well enough to give the canned answer, or directing people to the pastor or staff of the church is a cop out. Sorry if this offends, but this has been my experience.

    I love the verses you cited above Joon. I would add one more. Matthew 28:19. Because this tells us to invest in others. To walk with them through life. To experience and learn truth together. To seek out those we need to disciple, as well as those we need to disciple us. To live in harmony with the body, each part fulfilling its role. To understand that sometimes we are the treatment and sometimes we are the treated. To know that all these facets of life in and within church are necessary.

    In other words:

    This. Is. Discipleship.

  10. 

    Loved this! When I was a young man, who was recently married, I was struggling with a certain sin in my life and went to an older man about it. His response was to sing a psalm and pray. So I sang a psalm and prayed…and continued to struggle in isolation and began to backslide in my faith. ( Please know that I am not blaming this man at all) I simply needed someone to struggle with me, to do Galatians 6 with me, to do this crazy messed up life thing with me, to help me on my journey of faith. So now, that I have some experience in being a sinner, when I am approached in this manner by a struggling brother, I have no words, no cliches, no pat answers and I won’t simply brush them off, and I am not patting myself on the back here, I am just saying how it is. If they are willing, I work it with them, we read the bible, work through the tough sh*t, call out sin by name, pray, cry, laugh, whatever it takes…we are the body we need to learn that when one part suffers we all suffer and we need to…really we do. Thank you for this post!

    • 

      That’s very awesome. I think we all have a “growth period” where we are not sure how to help someone, and I’ve seen people freeze up when they meet truly hurting people. I can understand that, and God has grace for those who don’t know how to handle it. And as you said, there is definitely a place where we get the Bible out and actually walk someone through it instead of using it as a shield. Appreciate your insight my brother!

  11. 

    Reblogged this on One Christian Dad and commented:
    I appreciated this post. Sometimes I don’t need an answer to my problems,or to hear a cliched christian response… I just need you to stand beside me in the faith and in the flesh.

  12. 

    Great advice. When you’re struggling in one area or another, you don’t always know where in the Bible to look, so if someone just throws the whole thing at you and expects you to figure it out on your own, it truly isn’t all that helpful.

    • 

      Exactly. Once we do mention the Bible, it’s helpful to at least walk through a verse together. The Bible is extremely critical in unlocking the lies in our heads: but it’s still about relationally walking through it one on one

  13. 

    From the age of 16ish till after I was married, God planted men & women of God in my life. Ones who not just said the Word, but shared it, walked it and debated it. Ever challenging me to ask questions and seek answers both on my own and in fellowship. I know that so many of my age group (40yrs young now)did not receive the same. There is something about sharing time with young couples and young men in God’s Word and realizing it into reality. Living it and not just reading it. Thank you Christ for your enduring Faithfulness and Grace. And you know what?, I just realized that as I write that this is happening globally. AWESOME

    • 

      Thank you for sharing this awesome testimony. I agree, it hurts my heart to know that so many hunger for real discipleship and go without it. The harvest is many, the workers few. Let’s continue praying that many others will be thankful as we are.

  14. 

    A detailed, thoughtful response. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with people. Boils down to the idea that we are stronger together, supporting and nurturing one another, and that makes sense. Too often we want to do it alone, won’t trust others, won’t help or conveniently forget when others are in need. I don’t subtract myself from that equation either because, while I do try to do right and pray for guidance every day, I have still made wrong and selfish decisions at times.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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  2. Lessons by Heart - May 8, 2013

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