Living In Tension
I have come to believe that the highest compliment I can receive as a communicator is, “It was like you were speaking right to me” or, “It’s like you have been reading my diary.” Connecting, I have found, has less to do with style than it does with empathy. On this common ground of empathy, one life can flow into another; even better, one life can become open to the Holy Spirit through another.
The irony is that our deepest struggles are the very areas we keep most closed. We never name our greatest challenges, which leads to denial—the most debilitating posture imaginable for spiritual health and growth.
In his book The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen writes that the main task of the minister is to “prevent people from suffering for the wrong reasons. Many people suffer because of the false supposition on which they have based their lives. That supposition is that there should be no fear or loneliness, no confusion or doubt.”
This sentiment seemed to be behind C.S. Lewis’ remark that “if you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth – only... wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”
The reality of the Christian life is that it is a struggle akin to Jacob’s wrestling with God. Jacob did not run from the conflict for in grappling with God, he seized God’s participation in his life. Through wrestling with God, he received God’s blessing. Struggle with God is the essence of relationship with God.
If there is any tenderness to my heart, it has come through it being broken.
If anything of worth flows through my soul, it flows out of a desert.
If there is any trustworthiness to my mind, it was forged on the anvil of doubt.
If my actions seem vigorous, they originated in blindness and frailty.
If there is depth to any of my relationships, it has come through wounding.
Not understanding the meaning of the struggles would be devastating; knowing it makes all the difference in the world. It is how I have embraced this mysterious God who created me. It is why I can move toward loving Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. It is why I can extend that love toward His other children. Not perfectly, not completely...
... just authentically.
James Emery White
Adapted from James Emery White, Wrestling with God. Click here to order this eBook on Church & Culture.
Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president.
His latest book, After “I Believe,” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast.