I think it’s safe to say that we all know of an area in our lives that God is calling us to surrender to Him. And we all believe surrender is worth it. At least, we want to believe that. But still, we struggle. Surrender requires faith, and faith has to be exercised to grow. And so when the extra strain is placed on our faith, we can often falter, wrestle, and be tempted to collapse under the pressure.
And on top of the pressure we feel from the feeling of losing control, the fear of the unknown, and the struggle of wrestling with what we really believe about God’s nature and character is the horrible feeling of isolation and loneliness.
I have a feeling you know exactly what I’m talking about.
In the dark night of our struggles, we often feel like we’re all alone, and that no one else can understand what we’re going through. We can buy into the lie that no one else struggles likes we do, and that if we were to honestly share our struggle we’d be mocked, judged, and condemned. So we hide our fears, we hide our struggles, and we isolate ourselves from the very people that God designed to be our support system.
This isolation is dangers on several levels. Initially, it’s dangerous because when we are struggling we need support. We need the encouragement that people who’ve been there, to give us perspective, and help us find hope. We need people who will speak the truth to us and remind us of who God is, because we’re too caught up in our fears to see Him. We need to know that what God is asking of us is not impossible – and we need to hear it from those who have surrendered the impossible. Without those godly influences in our struggle, we can often find ourselves spinning our wheels in the mud of our temptation and it can take us far longer to experience deliverance.
There’s another danger that lurks when we believe the lies that we’re alone and no one can understand our struggle. It happens when we begin to focus on those around us in the wrong way – rather than seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ who we can lean on and learn from, we can sometimes build them up in our minds until they're giants standing over us with a ruler, waiting for us to screw something up. We tell ourselves they’ve never struggled like this. They’ve never had to deal with these kinds of things. They have it all together. In thinking this way, we can unintentionally vilify the people around us, which only serves to make us feel more alone and isolated, with a hint of anger or resentment towards other Christians. Eventually, we flat out turn away from our fellow brothers and sisters and feel justified in avoiding those relationships.
However, what we often forget in those dark moments of our struggles, is that true Christian brothers and sisters treasure honesty and understand the struggle.
I’ve been on both ends of this issue. I’ve been the one struggling. And I had to make myself vulnerable to find help and hope. And I’ve been the one trying to help someone who’s struggling. I’ve felt my heart break as I’ve watched them push away from the support and encouragement I’ve wanted to share.
And as one who’s been on both sides, let me just spell it out for you in the clearest way I know how: if you can make yourself believe God and trust your fellow Christians, you will be amazed to discover that the very people you're afraid will dismiss you, belittle you, and discourage you are just waiting to help you, love you, and encourage you. Because we've all been there. We all have struggled with surrender. We've all battled the big stuff. But you know what else? We've all overcome, by God's grace.
And that’s the key. If we really want to find victory in our struggle, we need hope and we need help. The battle isn’t won alone. We need to see other believers as teammates, not as competition. We need to recognize that while honesty is hard, struggling alone is harder.
If we want to overcome, if we want to conquer, if we want break free, we need to surround ourselves with those who’ve been there – not so they can commiserate with us, but so they can spur us on and help us find the motivation and power to persevere, just like they did – and then receive the promised freedom, just like they did.
If you're struggling, it's okay. My challenge to you is this: make a choice, right now, to treasure honesty and be real about the struggle. Reach out. Find help. Find hope.
And if you're on the other side of the struggle, praise God. This week, I want to challenge you to ask God to show you someone who's struggling and then reach out to them, offering the same hope and encouragement you were given when your own faith was weak.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In a word: passionate.