The Body of Christ is a giant jumble of all kinds of different people. Black people, white people, yellow people, tan people…. fat people, skinny people, funny people, serious people, musical people, logical people, poor people, rich people… And then there are the many different traditions and styles of worship and ways of teaching and ways of expressing our gifts. Is there any doubt that God loves variety?
But besides the fact that we all call Jesus Christ Lord and Savior, there is at least one other thing that we all have in common: we all have struggles. No Christian, no matter how super-spiritual, is ever completely free from struggles. We can’t graduate from the school of hard knocks. They keep coming all throughout our lives. Even Saint Paul had his thorn in the flesh.
Why wouldn’t God give us a free pass? Wouldn’t that be a better marketing plan for Christianity – a life free of pain and worry? I think there are three good reasons God leaves us with our struggles.
- They keep us in communication with Him. While we are struggling, we pray more and with more intensity. If it weren’t for our difficult times, God might never hear from some of us!
- They are a greenhouse for spiritual growth. When we submit these difficult areas to God, we learn spiritual lessons inaccessible to us in easier circumstances.
- They connect us to each other. When we have needs, we reach out to others for help. Some of us wait until the need is acute before we swallow our pride and admit that we can’t do it alone, and that might be the whole point of why God allows our suffering to continue so long.
The Body of Christ is really like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Each of us has jagged parts and incomplete parts. All of us have places in which we need to receive from others and places where we can give where others are in need. None of us is perfect, and that’s by design. God has a purpose for our imperfection. Perfect people, by contrast, would have smooth edges.
They wouldn’t need anyone else, and they would have no compelling reason to give of themselves to their brothers and sisters in Christ (since none of us would have any needs, either). Everyone would live lives of quiet, self-sufficiency. There would be nothing to force them to reach out to their neighbor or to the Church.
Over time, the Church would stop looking like an interdependent Body. Rather than being jointed, we would just be jumbled – overlapping but not connecting.
Our jagged insufficiency forces us into community with one another. Our struggles, our needs are God’s way of forcing us to reach out and to receive. They bond the Body.
We should give God praise for every struggle and every inadequacy we have. They are exquisitely precise in their fit with someone God has brought or will bring into our lives.
And finally, we should be careful not to limit these connections to existing members of the Body. God has a plan to draw more and more to Him. He wants those that He brings to us to have some place to connect with us, and our struggles and our pains and our inadequacies serve that purpose.
Putting our “perfect” sides out for the world to see creates pressure for us to live a lie. When our jagged raggedness is revealed, we are seen for the hypocrites that we are. Smooth edges don’t draw people to the Body; they repel. They make lost people think that they have to clean up their lives before becoming a Christian. If we want to win the world to Christ, we’ve got to stop polishing our edges.