“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” — 1 Peter 5:7
“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” — Gandalf, The Return of the King
“Jesus loves me this I know, / For the Bible tells me so, / Little ones to Him belong, / They are weak but He is strong.” — “Jesus Loves Me”
Those of us who grew up attending Sunday school had that tune instilled in us from an early age.
“Jesus Loves Me” and countless other worship songs demonstrate that the Church is not shy to declare its weakness before God. Yet, as we age, we become more reluctant to admit this frailty to other people.
Recent surveys reveal a widespread consensus, particularly among young adults, that the Church is simply not a safe place to ask hard questions or admit doubts (“Shut up and believe”). There is a notion, conscious or unconscious, that mature Christians have a perpetual smile glued to their face and declare, without a single worry in the world, “God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!”
As a result, many Christians hide their struggles for fear of being outed as a failed or weak Christian. We have seemingly forgotten the beautiful truth we learned in that simple children’s song that our strength comes from our weakness.
It’s okay for Christians not to be okay.
During crises, the internet becomes populated by countless “hot takes” that declare fear demonstrates a lack of spiritual maturity or faith in God and to worry or feel anxious about life’s uncertainties is to doubt God’s sovereignty and control. “Don’t worry. Be happy.”
The Bible tells us that we need not fear, because God is with us. It doesn’t teach that fear itself is a sin. I love amusement parks and rollercoasters. As a father, I have taken great joy in watching my 5-year-old twin boys take on increasingly larger and scarier rides. They are terrified as they stand in line, and they don’t stop being terrified until the ride is over and their heart rates finally slow to normal speeds.
After one particularly frightening ride (a mini “Tower of Terror”), one of my boys admitted, “I wasn’t brave, Daddy. I was scared.”
“Exactly,” I said. “You were scared, and you rode the ride anyway. That is bravery.”
Feeling scared is not a weakness. If fear and anxiety were not natural and expected emotions, then the Bible wouldn’t spend so much time telling us, “Do not be afraid!” The biblical declaration is not intended to diminish the reality of fear but to celebrate the promised hope that transcends fear and doubt.
Fear is not a sin. Disobedience as a result of our fear is a sin. The anticipation of the painful physical and spiritual experience of the cross led Jesus to sweat drops of blood; but His anguish didn’t prevent Him from obeying His heavenly Father and dying for the sins of humanity.
We are not faithful because we are fearless. Rather, it is the reality of fear and anxiety that necessitates faith.
Strength in Weakness
When talking to unbelievers, Christians often affirm, “We’re not perfect. We’re just like you. We mess up too!” But perhaps this remark would be more self-evident if Christians lowered their spiritual superhero masks and showed their weakness and imperfection for all the world to see.
Christians have doubts, feel depressed, are lonely, harbor regrets, struggle with anxiety, and have bad days.
The fact that God is in control doesn’t mean that the Christian journey is never frightening.
The fact that Jesus is Lord doesn’t mean we won’t experience periods of loneliness or discouragement.
The fact that God loves us doesn’t mean Christians never need a counselor or therapy session.
Perhaps one reason the Church has been a step or two behind the wider culture regarding the importance of mental health is that we’ve inadvertently bought into the lie that mental illness signals spiritual weakness. We mistakenly assume faith requires the absence of fear and doubt rather than obedience despite our fear and doubt.
Christians don’t enter into God’s presence because they have it all together. Rather, they humbly fall on their face before Jesus because they’re not strong. The world is a harsh place, and they are desperate for God’s supernatural comfort and peace.
Let’s not forget that the same Jesus who promised His joy would be made full in us also wept bitter tears and sweat drops of blood. God doesn’t promise that we’ll never struggle, and He’s not fooled by our fake smiles, forced peppiness, and artificial strength. What He does promise us is something far greater—that He will never leave us or forsake us no matter how many times we fail or how difficult this life becomes. Let’s use whatever strength we have—weak as we may be—and cling to that hope. Indeed, we are weak, but He is strong.