Is the Briarpatch Calling You?

Is the briarpatch where Jesus makes his home for you? If you are a Christian, the answer is yes. Your calling as a follower of Jesus is to do just that . . . follow! Jesus can, of course, be found in the sanctuary, but his presence is not limited to a scheduled hour between breakfast and lunch on Sunday morning. He sends us—tells us to “go into the world” in his name—and promises to be with us to the very end. Furthermore, he is revealed in the pages of the Bible and meets us in prayer. Reading the Scriptures and praying regularly are essential for all followers of Christ, and a journey into the briarpatch assumes that worship and study and prayer are vital and vibrant parts of your life. If not, believe me, walking with Jesus among the thorns and thistles will renew a desire and need for these things! But the point is, your spiritual life will be anemic without both. We meet Jesus in corporate worship and personal prayer, but we follow him into the briarpatch every day to bring love and healing to our world.

But what if you are not a Christian, or have long ago decided that Christianity is just not for you? Perhaps you have had your fill of boring, perfunctory songs and prayers. You just cannot stomach the churches full of some of the most self-centered, hypocritical bipeds who have ever lumbered across the earth. If this is what it means to be a Christian, you’ll pass.

If that is you, there is hope. Real hope. Don’t give up. All I ask is that you join me in the briarpatch and just see if you don’t find the Jesus of the Bible—the real one, who loved prostitutes, hypocrites, and thieves. The one who hung out with the poor, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. The one who railed against corruption, greed, suffering, and injustice. The one who invited everyone to come and find hope, meaning, and the life of God in him—without becoming myopic, self-righteous, religious fanatics.

This is the Jesus who made this world and called it “good.” But what he made has fallen into disrepair and is often overrun with the brambles of suffering, sin, alienation, and shallow religiosity. The list could go on and on. But if Jesus is really the Redeemer he claims to be, he is not done with you and me, and he is not done with the world—as broken as it may be. He has come to rescue and restore, to bring healing and hope. He has come to put the world to rights, to clear away the brush and the brambles and restore things to how they were always supposed to be. Not only is he doing this, he invites us to join him.

But how?

It just seems too difficult and way too scary at times. So we settle for memory verses, “quiet times,” potlucks, and sermons no longer than thirty minutes. I guess it’s just easier that way. But what if we had the courage to follow Jesus into the thicket of his healing grace?

 

Welcome to the Briarpatch

Sarah was new to Atlanta and had recently endured a hard breakup with her boyfriend. She had no friends in the city, was under tremendous stress in her new job, and quickly spiraled into a severe depression. Having grown up in church, Sarah could not remember a time when Jesus wasn’t real to her—near and intimate. But now he seemed to have been swept away in the vortex of sadness that sucked all the joy out of her life.

She was in trouble, but admitting to such a desperate depression was terrifying. Christians are supposed to be happy, right? They are supposed to have faith and joy and hope. But all the memory verses now failed her and she couldn’t muster the strength to pray.

She approached me one Sunday and simply said, “I think I need to talk to someone.”

When Sarah told me her story, it was clear we were going into the briarpatch of her spiritual and emotional suffocation—a place of darkness where the birds no longer sing, the sun no longer shines, and God no longer cares. If you have ever loved someone who was enduring a season of depression—or been there yourself—you understand that it is more than just having “the blues.” It is the “Dementor’s Kiss” that can “drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air” around you.1 The nearer we draw to someone whose soul is struggling to breathe, the thinner the air becomes for us as well. But draw near we must.