We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened.
Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part. (THE MESSAGE)
There are only two basic categories of Christians: those who struggle and keep it to themselves, and those who struggle and let you know about it. We may sometimes assume there is a third category: those who have no struggles at all. Don’t believe it!
Jesus predicted trouble (and also joy) for his followers. Paul, who was no miserable defeatist, let others know of his struggles. He pulls no punches. He does speak of faith and overcoming. He also speaks of despondency and setbacks. In doing so, he invites us to both weep with him and rejoice with him.
Our Christian communities are to be places of authenticity, places where tears and laughter are to be expected. Not places where we put on a happy face out of fear of letting the side down, or out of fear that we are seen to lack faith. Paul reminds us that it is only as we share our struggles that we can invite prayer from others. Keeping our struggles hidden may mean others cannot meaningfully pray for each other.
Of course we don’t become exhibitionists, sharing everything with everybody. There is a time and place for discretion, for keeping some things to ourselves. But most encouragement is to be found from those who speak the honest truth about their faith journey. They remind us we are not alone in our struggles, that we are not forlorn stragglers on that journey. We are in the same boat steered by the same Saviour.