Today I finished Larry Crabb’s Connecting after several months of taking small bites of it in order to digest it slowly. The last chapters are the most exciting and practical, but the first chapters are necessary to create the framework to understand what comes later.
His premise is that too often Christians with problems are given into the care of ‘professionals’ who can ‘counsel’ them and have the problem taken care of outside the church. But God actually calls the church to care for each other. Crabb says that living and speaking Gospel–not trained psychologists’ formulas–has the power to change lives. I know he’s right. Below are some excerpts from the last chapter. Try to stick with it even if it looks long!
When we can’t handle truth, [tragedy, difficulty, sin] when what is most terribly true is too disturbing to face, we run to facts surrounding the truth and hide behind them. It gives us something to do, something to think about that we can manage…There is of course some functional value in this tendency.
However, when we shift battles from responding to physical disease or circumstantial difficulties to fight for someone’s soul, things are exactly reversed.
Suppose instead we allow ourselves to be devastated by the truth, to be overwhelmed with the sadness and pain it creates. We will soon sense our inadequacy to change what needs to be changed, we will face the truth that a troubled, hardened, foolish heart needs to be impacted and that only the Spirit of God can make that happen.
At that point we will have only two choices: Yield to despair or find God. If we begin looking for God, we will then enter a whole new battle. We will be thrown onto God, we will long to see His face, we will wrestle with our fears and doubts in His presence, we will seek Him with all our hearts.
Because He promised to let us find Him when we seek him with a stronger passion than we seek anything else (such as solutions or relief), we will find Him. We will find Him in His word. After a long fall through darkness, we will land on the truth of his eternal, almighty, and loving character, and we will believe He is always up to something good. And we will find Him within us in the form of holy urges and good appetites and wise inclinations that reflect the character of Christ.
In more familiar language, the energy of Christ is released most fully when we most completely come to an end of ourselves…
…But without Christ’s energy flowing through us, we are not adequate to restore a soul to godly functioning.
The route to power [heart-deep change, healing] lies in embracing disturbing truth and moving beneath it to discover the exhilarating truth of God.
Nothing matters more than releasing the energy of Christ as we speak with people we love, especially when those people are in the midst of trouble.
Facing the truth of what is going on in people’s lives, no matter how ugly or sad, is a necessary path to discovering what is deepest within us. That truth then prompts us to nourish the life we find, to sanctify ourselves for the sake of others. (John 17:19) And then we’re freed to speak genuinely rather than skillfully…
Crabb is a visionary, but he is realistic. I know it’s possible to have a church community where people care for each other with the motivation that comes from having known the Redeemer. Where nothing is too bad or ugly or sad to talk gently about with another fellow pilgrim. Where we fight for each other’s souls instead of only toying with peripheral matters.
I have seen glimpses of this where I come from and where I am, and it gives me great hope. Because God’s love is the most powerful force in the world, and we can change our world by loving well. Our love and care for each other–not tidy formulas and answers– change our own lives, plus it says more to others than we can verbalize. A long time ago, Jesus said it would work this way. And He was right.