The other day in the car, I heard a brief devotional about a woman struggling with grouchiness on a dull grey Monday. She saw her child looking at the drizzle outside with wonder. The child’s awe allowed the speaker to shift perspective and change her attitude about her surroundings.
I think there was truth there. A shift in perspective can do wonders for bad moods, conflict, or bad habits. And yet the devotional made me grit my teeth.
Look, sometimes it’s enough to angle our head a few degrees to catch afresh God’s presence.
But more often, God calls us to do more than change perspective. He calls us to change.
- If you are clinically depressed, Jesus is not calling you to get a more godly perspective. He’s calling you to get treatment.
- If you’re grieving a sexual assault, Jesus isn’t asking you to change your perspective on what happened. He desires for you to have justice.
- If you’re bewildered by a childhood of abuse, Jesus isn’t counseling you to see everything that happened through rose-colored glasses. He is giving you permission to get angry.
- If you’re suffering from chronic illness or pain, Jesus isn’t asking you to spiritualize your experience and pretend it’s hunky-dory. He’s encouraging you to be honest with him and yourself about your suffering.
I used to think submitting my cares to Jesus meant I’d achieve a kind of Platonic calm about them, and that if I shifted perspective enough, my problems, along with all my pesky emotions (fear, anger, sadness, self-loathing) would magically go away.
I kept hoping God would heal me if I dressed my wounds in pretty Christian language.
- So I kept submitting my shame to Jesus, without ever questioning where the shame came from.
- I prayed about my anxiety, without ever investigating why I felt anxious.
- I theologized about why more prayer didn’t help me, without wondering why my approach didn’t work.
- I shamed myself for my failure to get better without ever realizing I’d never dealt with the bedrock of what ailed me.
And when I shared about those hard things with other Christians, I made damn sure to couch everything in language that affirmed God’s freedom, Jesus’ victory, the Spirit’s blessing, even though I didn’t feel victorious, #blessed, or free.
God doesn’t #bless stuff to whisk away unpleasantness. He’s not a shoddy Better Business Bureau, giving our cracked and bleeding souls A+ ratings. He accepts and loves us right now, but he has no desire for us to stay in lives of shame, shivering, fear, and bewilderment. Forget #blessed. He wants to give us actual blessings.
If our lives don’t feel life-giving, if freedom feels like a pipe-dream, let’s not slap a #redeemed sticker on them. Most of us don’t need a shift of perspective to see our shame and fear differently. No: we desperately need real change.
Look, I’m not saying you are ever in danger of getting an F rating from God. Wherever we are, whatever our quandary, we are beloved, accepted, invited. He can redeem every situation, every dysfunction, every death from the grave.
But calling Lazarus alive before Jesus arrived at his tomb in truth and power is lying. It’s much easier to shift perspective superficially than face our grief, fear, and inertia.
After all, a change in perspective doesn’t require any movement on our part. By definition, you stay in place.
Repentance is a different animal. Repentance involves abrupt U-turns. Risk. Danger. A certain willingness to move.
I think the reason so many Christian platitudes irk people who have been through hell is because platitudes assume resurrection is easy. God won’t give you more than you can handle. All things work together for the good. God is in control.
Resurrection is available to us always. But just like Christ demonstrated, there will be a death involved to get there. A death of our assumptions. Of our coping mechanisms. A death to our competence or our reputation. A death of our comfortable theologies.
A death of easy, taken-for-granted #blessings.
Jesus isn’t about wishful thinking or papering over our pain. Jesus is about absolutely, positively, raising us from the grave.