Thursday, August 28, 2008

All I've got for you is Jesus...

When I was in seminary, one of the sayings I frequently heard from my counseling professors was that "we have a big Bible." We have many & large struggles in this life: sickness, suffering, death. Temptations and addictions. Eating disorders and relational disorders. Depression, anxiety, fear. Deep marital strife. Shallow relational connections. Sexual struggles of all kinds. And I find that in talking to people in times of significant struggle it's hard sometimes to believe myself what is true--that God is at work, that somehow he is in control and committed to bringing good out of the bad in the lives of his children. And in those moments it's easy to forget that we have a "big Bible," one that actually has something, in fact a lot of things, to say to those who struggle. It speaks to the fearful, the addicted, the sinning, the depressed, the dying. It speaks to us in our struggle with sin, whatever the particular genre of sin that might be in our own particular lives. And it speaks to us in our suffering, the common denominator of so many of our struggles with the hard edges of our health, our brain chemistry, our situation, our relationships. For all the glory of God's good work in the world and in the lives of his children, the Bible, this great story of salvation, comes to us in the midst of all the real brokenness of our real lives. So we really do need a big Bible, and we really do have a big Bible. And that's a big gift.

But there's another side to all this as well. The Bible, for all it's "bigness," has one grand Center, one main theme to which all the stories, all the letters, all the exhortations and laments and praise all point. One thing stands at the heart of the Bible. In fact, one person--Jesus. The help that the Bible provides is always help that's centered not in technique, but in a relationship with Jesus. For example, the Bible has a lot to say about marriage. Some of which comes in the "marriage passages" scattered throughout--instructions to husbands and wives, teaching about sex and relational roles and love and respect. But then the Bible also says so much else about loving our neighbor, loving our enemy, reigning in our tongue, forgiving from the heart, forsaking our crazy agendas for making ourselves the center of the universe--all of which comes into play for a married person in relationship with his or her spouse.

But very little of this could be considered any kind of "technique." Because it's all rooted first not in our attempts to get our lives straight, but in a broken relationship with God that can only be restored through being connected to Jesus who died and rose again for the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of our relationship with God. And it is only through living in this relationship, this relationship of grace, that any of the particular struggles and sufferings of our lives can be addressed with any kind of lasting help. This living relationship with Jesus is what Paul calls being "united to Christ." When a person comes to faith, he passes from death to life, from being alienated from God to being in Christ, united to Christ, joined to him. And all the exhortations to wise & godly living that the Bible contains are all aimed at those who are in fact united to Jesus. That relationship is the foundation of any real and lasting change in our lives.

So back to the title of this post. At the end of the day, "big" Bible in hand, I really only have one thing for my friends and family and church and myself. All I've got for you is Jesus. "How am I going to survive in this marriage? I'm losing hope." All I've got for you is Jesus. Let's talk about communication skills. Let's talk about how you make decisions together. Let's talk about your anger. But what's going to give you the ability to begin to curb your tongue? To soften your angry heart? To forgive in the midst of real wrong? To love and not simply tolerate your spouse? Only the transforming presence of Jesus who is at work in you and your marriage. How are you going to die to your own agenda for your marriage or your health or your kids or your career? Only if you're learning to love God over self, learning to trust Jesus and not yourself, learning to, by the Spirit, put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13).

All I've got for you is Jesus. And I'd be lying to tell you otherwise. All I've got for myself is Jesus, and I'm lying to myself when I tell myself otherwise. But, and here's the good news in ministry to others and in my own struggling and suffering, Jesus really is enough.

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