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Commonsense Christianity

To navigate the waters of life, you need a boat, and sometimes, it seems like a small boat, indeed. But it floats. Shore Leave, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re in a social situation, somebody asks you how you’re doing, and since the most significant event in your life lately has been the loss of your job, or the diagnosis of a serious disease, or your teenager’s totaling the car but mercifully walking away unscathed, you mention this.

And the person listening leans forward, touches your arm, and says,

“Jesus is all you need. Excuse me while I go refresh my lemonade.”

You’re Not Helping

No offense, mind you, but quite frankly, telling me that Jesus is all I need — when what I really need right now is a means to pay the electric bill, or a doctor who will actually listen to me and answer my questions, or a working car — just doesn’t cut it. I know you mean well, but in five words, not taking account the part about the lemonade, you’ve managed to

1) underplay the suffering I’m going through,

2) subtly admonish me for my lack of faith,

3) leave me standing, in the middle of the room, feeling like an idiot.

Theoretically, I know that Jesus is all I need. Theoretically, that’s what you know too, because if you knew any more, or had any actual experience of Jesus meeting your needs when you were up against the Red Sea with no boat, you would have foregone the lemonade and stayed to talk.

Glib Lip-Speak

“Jesus is all we need,” in addition to being a church chorus that sounds like a dirge, is one of those pat answers Christians feel obliged to throw out when they don’t know the response to someone’s question, or are faced with another person’s sad story and don’t know what to say. It’s so much easier to comment, “Jesus is all you need,” and then leave.

As a child of God, what I need is patience, love, strength, guidance, teaching, compassion, direction and care from Someone bigger, stronger, and far more capable than I. Into the Surf, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

“God is in control.”

“I’ll pray for you.”

“The Lord is so good.”

We don’t always have to say anything — Job, in his sufferings, would probably have appreciated less advice than silence, and sometimes, silence is all we have. It is golden, especially when accompanied by concern, sympathy, caring, prayer, and a genuine desire to do anything in our power to help the situation.

Honesty Works

Other times, honesty on our part, in response to honesty on another person’s part, is oddly encouraging:

“I really don’t know what to say. This is a difficult situation, and I’m not God. But I will pray for you, and I’m starting right now.” When a person is desperate, sad, discouraged, and dancing with despair, knowing that someone cares enough to pray for them — and really do it — is something to grab onto, because by this time, one realizes that it’s not so much that Jesus is all you need, but that

Jesus is all you’ve got.

Both sentences say the same thing, but in a different way, with the first implying that you don’t have enough faith to believe, and the second baldly stating a fact that you can’t do anything about. But you don’t have to, because Jesus being all you’ve got really isn’t such a bad situation. Think of it:

I Can’t Do Anything, but God Can

He is “able to to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” (Ephesians 3: 20); He meets all our needs according to his glorious riches (Philippians 4: 20); and His plans for our life are good ones, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11)

When you consider the double fact of His being compassionate, gracious, faithful, and loving (Deuteronomy 34: 6) and our being the beloved children of God (1 John 3: 1), then Jesus being all we’ve got truly is enough, and if we have difficulty understanding, accepting, or believing this, that’s okay.

Our gracious Father is patient and wise, more than willing to take the time to walk beside us, carry us when necessary, and teach us Who He is and how much He loves us. He wants us to want Him, to turn to Him first and always, and this generally doesn’t happen until we realize that there is no other alternative.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I explore the concept of actually living the stuff we so glibly say. It’s not easy when you take God at His word and tell Him, “Yes. This is what I want. It looks impossible, and I’ve only heard of the Red Sea being parted once. But you’re the same God, you love your people, and I’m one of your people.”

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