At the break I was in the bathroom and one of my classmates sensed that something was wrong. He was about 15 or so years younger than me. I told him what was bothering me. He had no frame of reference through which to process what I was sharing. So very nervously he suggested he pray for me. I said ok; he did. It made him feel better. He meant well. I was not helped.
I was at a conference several years back. I was sitting alone in a hall. One of the young believers that came with me was walking toward me with a really puzzled look on his face. I asked him what was bothering him. He shared he had been sharing some struggles with someone at the conference with the notion that he might get some counsel, help. I replied, “He told you to give it to God didn’t he.” My friend replied, with a hopeful look on his face, “Yes, he did.” I responded, “You have no idea what he meant do you?” “No.” So we talked it through. My friend was not helped by the cliché. He was confused.
I have learned that I have to be selective about with whom I share my struggles. That is tough for me because with a primary driving gift of exhortation, I tend to use myself as an example. I have found though that more often than not when I share, I am served a helping of Christian cliché as a reward.
Much like my friend at the conference I am told to give it to God, trust God, rest in God, or like my classmate in the bathroom at seminary I am offered a short prayer.
As I think through why this happens, I wonder if it is because we are uncomfortable with the fact that life is messy and does not really work out the way that we think it should. That rather than engage in the fact that we really do not have answers for the messes we live through, the pain we endure, the desperation with which we crave answers to unsolvable challenges – rather than engage fully in our helplessness to either figure it out or help those whom we love, we respond with a cliché. It gets us off the hook.
The problem is we need to stay on that hook. We need to live in the pain. We need to be honest that we have not got a clue what God is up to. We do not have answers on why our friend’s child died. Why our friend’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. We just need to be there. Uncomfortable with our uncertainty. We need to love them. We need to pray, yes. But we need to pray desperately to know Him in that situation.
Life, as we know it, is a mess. Clichés will not help.