What does this look like in your relationships? What does this look like in your church culture?
How many times have you seen a conversation similar to the following go down in your small group/D-group/Sunday school class (whatever you call it).
Question: How is everyone? Does anyone have any prayer requests to share?
Answer: Let’s be in prayer for Suzie’s grandmother who is suffering with lung cancer.
Answer: And pray for Sally and her new baby. Baby Kate was born 7 weeks early and is very premature.
Answer: And let’s also remember Johnny as he travels across the country to visit his brother.
These are the type things that are regularly shared in small group gatherings of Christ-followers, and please hear me when I say that these are IMPORTANT things to share with one another and pray about. These things matter, and they matter deeply to God. However, these are safe requests. And they aren’t the only requests we should be sharing and praying about.
What would happen if we as believers were really transparent with one another about our struggles? What if we shared our deepest sufferings and sins (if not with our small groups, then one-on-one with a trusted friend and mature believer)? What if our answers in small group and one-on-one conversations included some of the following:
Answer: I just feel like I’m in a spiritual valley. I’m having a hard time with motivation and discipline to be in God’s Word daily. Most days, I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the walls. I need encouragement and accountability to remain disciplined and faithful. I need prayer that God would help me grow my affections for Him.
Answer: My sister-in-law just found out she is pregnant. I want to rejoice with her. I really do. But my heart aches. The sting is still there. I am longing for a baby of my own so badly. I’m trying to trust God and remember that His will is perfect, but sometimes I struggle not to grow angry and bitter with God and others. It seems like everyone I know is getting pregnant…except me.
Answer: I’ve never told anyone this, but I struggle with same-sex attraction. I know the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong, but these attractions are a reality for me. God says this is not natural, but it feels natural to me. I need prayer and counsel and help. I want to repent of sin and please God with my life, but I’m so afraid of being alone. Why do I have these attractions? How do I deal with them? How do I battle? I feel like I can’t share this struggle with anyone because people will look at me differently and judge me.
Answer: I’m so discouraged and burned out! My two-year-old is constantly throwing tantrums and testing the limit. My four-year-old NEVER STOPS TALKING and asking questions. The baby screams through nap-time every day. The housework is endless, and I just feel so depleted. I find myself snapping at my husband and losing patience with my children, hiding out in the shower for just 5 minutes of ME TIME. I know children are a blessing from the Lord, and I’m so thankful for my family. But sometimes I’m just so tired and discouraged. Please pray for me. Pray that the Lord would prune away selfishness and impatience in my life, and fulfill me in Him so that I may glorify him as a wife and mom. Pray for daily strength and endurance.
Answer: I dropped the ball and succumbed to temptation this week. The struggle with pornography is still so real and hard. I was doing better and really walking according to the Spirit, and I sort of let my guard down. I didn’t realize it would be such a continual struggle. I desperately need prayer and accountability as I seek to get back on track.
Answer: I’m beginning to think my daughter may have an eating disorder. She’s been obsessed with her body image for quite some time, and I’ve noticed that she is eating less and less and starting to drop weight. What do I do? How do I help her? How do I point her to Christ? I’m so worried.
Answer: I’m still out of work. The bills are piling up and our debt is growing. My wife is stressed out all the time because of this, and it’s put strain on our marriage. I’ve applied for job after job and nothing has worked out. I know the Lord promises to provide, but I just feel like He’s not coming through. Sometimes I think, “Where are you, Lord? Do you see our struggle? What are we going to do?”
Answer: I’m just still so lonely. Some days I even feel depressed. Losing my husband after 58 years marriage has just shaken me. The Lord still has me here for a purpose, I know. I want to use my time to work for His Kingdom and bring Him glory, but my heart still hurts so much. I need prayer and time with others.
Church, hear me when I say that these are not just the struggles of “people out there.” These are the struggles of those among us. These are our struggles. And these are all common temtpations and struggles of once-broken-but-now-redeemed people living in a (still) broken world
No temptation has overtaken that you that is not common to man . . . (1 Cor 10:13)
While the power of sin has been broken for those of us who are in Christ (Romans 6:6-7), the presence of sin remains until we meet Him face-to-face and the process of our being conformed to His image is complete (1 John 3:2-3). Until that time, we are commanded to kill the sin that still seeks to reign in our lives.
Let not sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions . . .(Romans 6:12)
Putting off sin and putting on righteousness (Colossians 3) in an attempt to grow and be made more like Christ is what we as believers are to do until we are ultimately perfected in Him at the end. This put-off/put-on process is called sanctification, and we are to be active in this process.
However, we are not to do it alone. Ultimately, we need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to live righteous lives. He is the one who helps us put off sin and put on righteousness. He is the one who truly changes us. We also need each other. We need fellow sinner-sufferers who will walk this road with us—praying for us, encouraging us, counseling God’s Word to us, holding us accountable. And we need to do this for others.
Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed (James 5:16).
We can’t do these things for one another unless we are transparent. We can’t do these things unless we are real.
So, how will you seek to be more transparent in your relationships with fellow believers? How will you make yourself available and encourage others to be transparent and real with you?
Let’s open ourselves up to one another, being the true Church as God has called us to be.