The Good Struggle

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”  Genesis 12:1 ESV

Conflict and struggle are important elements in our metamorphosis as persons. We must learn as ministers never to interrupt, through misplaced sympathy or empathy, the painful process whereby a soul is being raised from its stupor and deadness. This is most often done in Christian circles by encouraging the person to “bend” toward ourselves. But we can never take another’s loneliness away. Henri Nouwen speaks powerfully to this current delusion: 

There is much mental suffering in our world. But some of it is suffering for the wrong reason because it is born out of the false expectation that we are called to take each other’s loneliness away. When our loneliness drives us away from ourselves into the arms of our companions in life, we are, in fact, driving ourselves into excruciating relationships, tiring friendships and suffocating embraces.[1] 

… Every one of us, not just the ones who are the most visibly wounded by the darkness in man and in the world, has to face the inner loneliness and separation from God and then begin the rigorous but sternly magnificent work of converting the “desert of loneliness”[2] within into the spaciously beautiful “garden of solitude”[3] where the true self comes forward. This is the self capable of friendship, capable of Christian fellowship.[4]

Becoming a radiant, whole human being is the most glorious privilege in the world.  The Holy One is whispering even now into the heart of every man, woman, and child, “Become!”  To answer Him is sternly magnificent, rigorous indeed.  Somewhere inside, each one of us knows we were made for such greatness.  Yet facing the desert between who we are now and who God is making us to be takes great courage, so let us cheer one another on! Let us renounce unbelieving sympathy that would excuse any child of God from confronting his or her own crisis in separation.  Let us provoke one another with confidence in the One who does all things well:  my God in His steadfast love will meet me; your God in His steadfast love will meet you.

PRAYER:  Gracious Father, open our eyes to the unseen real, to the springs that are welling up under the surface of every life’s desert.  Forgive of any trespass into another’s loneliness – we entrust these dear ones to You now and ask You to cleanse them from our sin in Jesus’ name. Stir in us the longing to become, and to embolden others to become true, solid, and vibrant.  Pour out Your gifts within and among us, quickening faith, hope and love, and put Your words of blessing and encouragement in our mouths. We thank you in advance for the lavish, fruitful gardens You are growing in our hearts.  To You be all honor, glory, and praise.  Amen.

  1. Reaching Out, p. 22
  2. ibid
  3. ibid
    The Broken Image, p. 155-156
    Painting:  August Macke, 1887-1914, Vegetable fields [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons