You & Your Family

Sharing our ups and downs

Feb 2011    

MY DEFENCES ARE RAISED every time I am with a group of Christians and they begin to share. e word “share” has special meaning in Christian parlance. It denotes giving public testimony to the work of God in our lives. is is often understood as proclaiming victories over various difficulties and challenges and these good outcomes are attributed to divine intervention.

As each successive person, both young and old, speaks of rather personal struggles and how they eventually overcame them, I am often struck by how such announcements can appear to be so unusual to an outsider. For one, it goes contrary to the commonly held advice of “not washing one’s dirty linen in public”. It is also in opposition to the idea that one should not draw attention to one’s self, much less to one’s faults and shortcomings. I have noticed men standing and making themselves vulnerable to others when they give their personal testimonies. And we also remember that public speaking is one of the most common feared experiences one can be asked to perform.

I suppose the fact that it happens can in itself serve as a potent statement of the transformational power of God. Not only has God given us the ability to overcome our problems, but He has also given us the courage to proclaim them publicly. Many Christians also share as a way of giving thanks and glory to God. We also share as a way of encouraging others going through similar challenges.

This brings me to my discomfort. Sometimes being surrounded by all this positive talk about God’s power and purpose leaves me feeling like I am the only powerless sinner in the room. It leaves me to question what is wrong with my walk with God. How is it that God has not answered my prayers in as dramatic a manner as He seems to have answered theirs? How is it that I have yet to see the light at the end of my tunnel?

There are two conclusions one is left with. Either indeed I am in need of and have yet to experience God’s Grace or there seems to be a conspiracy amongst most believers to focus only on the positives in one’s relationship with God. Perhaps the word “conspiracy” is a little strong and dramatic but it serves to draw attention to the sense of alienation experienced by some of us who are still struggling with understanding God’s purpose for our current trials.

The alienation comes from two sources. Firstly, we sometimes condemn ourselves for not being good enough to be worthy to experience spiritual success and resolution. We feel that we do not belong in the company of believers who seem to be better than us. Secondly, it comes with feeling the judgement of others that if we have lived the Christian life right, loved God with all our heart, soul and might, then should we not have experienced His Redemption? Therefore our continued lack of victory is proof of our disobedience and unworthiness.

The experience of feeling powerless and helpless has close parallels in the world of counselling. We sometimes think that we have done all that we can possibly do and yet the outcome we are hoping for eludes us. The husband who tries to regain his wife’s trust, or the wife who works tirelessly to reignite the husband’s affection, or the parent who strives to reconnect with the wayward son, yet all their effort does not yield any results. Even I as a Marital and Family Therapist have, from time to time, felt that I have tried every “trick in the book” and still things appear to be at an impasse. It is very tempting, in such instances, to be in despair.

What then do we do? I tell my clients to persevere; to try to carry on with life even with the thorns that still linger on. To not lose heart and wait and hope for our day of salvation. To appreciate the daily miracle of being able to find the strength to live a day at a time and hope for a brighter future. We are also thankful for people who show thoughtfulness and acts of kindness, be they large or small, that remind us that we are not alone.

And finally, when we are with groups of Christians who are sharing, we too can and should share about our struggles. e fact that we continue to find strength to struggle is no less powerful a testimony of the Grace of God. the fact that our faith, though shaken, is still intact is an affirmation of the power of God. Perhaps when more of us speak of our continued struggles, many other kindred spirits may feel less alone and unworthy.

Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.

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