‘Our God is too small. And your problems are too big’.
Some of the most devastating words I’ve ever heard were when I was dying (quite literally) of anorexia and had been discharged from the NHS . After months of searching, Glen and I found ourselves with a Christian counsellor of 30 years experience. His words? ‘I’m sorry, this is far too big for me to handle. I’ll see if I can find someone else who can help’.
He didn’t. And that day, a lot more closed shut than the door of his office.
I don’t blame him – he just said what he felt. And what he believed to be true. He really felt that my issues were beyond his scope. And yes, I, and others, may also need outside help. But fundamentally I need Christ – a Christ who meets me in the mess.
I’d love to say that it was just our experience. A one-off. But it is not. Every day I hear from people who have found the same thing. Every day those words are being repeated to broken people in our churches. Not just with eating disorders. Not even just with mental health issues. It’s ok to talk about wanting to prioritise say, quiet times as a couple. But what about our other struggles? In the bank? Or the bedroom? If these things are off-limits to us as a church, then the message is that they’re off-limits to God too. That He’s just not big enough. That He doesn’t care. He only wants in on the acceptable bits of me.
So often, what crushes us is not simply our struggles. It’s the unutterable loneliness, the shame, the isolation, the sheer effort required to pretend we’ve got it together, to adjust the masks.
As Christians perhaps we need to ask ourselves some questions.
Is Christ a doctor for the sick, or a cipher for peer-sanctioned approval?
What constitutes a ‘spiritual’ issue? As ‘opposed’ to a ‘medical’ or ‘psychological’ one.
How do we respond to brokenness?
And, perhaps more insidiously, what happens when we don’t respond at all?
Because here’s the bottom line. When it comes to dealing with broken people, ( not least you and me), then doing nothing is not an option. If we don’t respond, then we’re saying the gospel is not enough.
I’m not talking about “acceptable struggles”. “Spiritual’ problems.” Minor pastoral concerns. I mean the big stuff, the mess. All too often, we hand this over wholesale, to the ‘professionals’.
Do we believe that Christ’s lordship extends over every area of our lives? That He died to cover over every shame, every sin? That we belong to Him – body and soul and that He speaks hope and healing into every single dark place?
It’s not a question of handing responsibility over to schools or doctors. Because hurting people aren’t just looking for people to handle their problems. They’re looking for someone who can handle them. We need people to stand with us in our mess, to point us back to The Doctor for the sick. And if we can’t do that as a church, then what exactly are we doing?