Friday, March 20, 2009

When Jesus Makes You Feel Bad

We’ve heard it before: Jesus is nearly equated with anti-depressant mediation. Accepting Jesus is like taking a Valium.

"Come to Jesus, and you’ll…(you fill in the state of euphoria)."

Again, "Know Jesus, Know Peace. No Jesus, No Peace."

Nice platitudes… I guess...

When a person comes to faith, there isn’t a removal of feeling bad and the installment of feeling good. Rather, the Christian life is gradual reversal of what you feel good and bad about. As non-believers, we generally feel good about sin and bad about righteousness. When God changes our hearts, we begin to feel bad about sin and good about righteousness. These feelings intensify gradually.

But it’s precisely this reversal that throws a person into a deep, nagging, and sometimes overwhelming struggle of soul (i.e., sadness). One might even argue that a person can sometimes feel "worse" as a believer than as an unbeliever. The more a person loves righteousness, the more he or she hates the sin within; which is to say, the more he or she feels "bad." Paul models this well:

Romans 7:15-24 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me….For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

The mere fact that you feel worse off now then you did when or before you first believed doesn’t at all mean that you are actually worse off not then when or before you first believed. Rather, it may be an indication that you are better off. Sometimes it’s an unhealthy person that doesn’t feel any pain. Pain can be a sign of health.

Imagine for a moment a man whose body is ravaged due to a head-on accident. One of the most significant injuries is a severed spinal column which has caused paralysis and lack of sensation, and therefore a lack of pain. Though the rest of his body is broken, he doesn’t feel it. Imagine some powerful scientific feat in which doctors are able to reattach his spinal cord. Upon this reattachment, pain signals begin to flow to his brain. Consider that though he is healthier after this procedure (due to this spinal cord being reattached), he experiences far more pain now then when he was significantly less healthier. The presence of pain may give the patient the illusion that he is worse off after the procedure than he was before it. Instead, pain is a signal of new found health.

The fact that a Christian experiences times of spiritual angst should not immediately dismissed as a sign of immaturity, but maturity. A sober man understands drunkenness, not a drunk. A person "sobering up" in the Christian journey will have a more sane and acute of the sin that remains. This leads to reinforce his convictions about salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. He is moved to boast louder in the cross and renounce confidence in the flesh.

Pastor Jake