As Christians we weren’t allowed to make hard times about ourselves. Well, fuck that.
This week, I want to take a closer look at how Baptist Christianity’s anti-self attitude creates expectations that suffocate us when we’re struggling.
It’s no secret to us by now that Baptist Christianity is pretty much synonymous with repression. I mean, worldview literally stresses that you cannot follow God without “dying to yourself.” That’s rough, buddy.
Growing up, I was taught that loving God means allowing him to control every imaginable aspect of my life, to the point where my very emotions could be sinful, from anxiety (didn’t I trust that God would take care of me?) to anger (how could I not forgive when God had forgiven me?)
Unfortunately, that repression really takes its time to shine when a Christian goes through hard times. The idea is that when you’re struggling in life, it’s because God intended it to happen, and you’re expected to deal with it and feel with it in very specific ways. Any other and you’re selfish and foolish. That’s based on the following 3 concepts.
- God never puts you through anything you can’t handle.
- God puts you through hard times for your own good.
- God puts you through hard times so you will learn that he is the only person you can depend on.
Tough times are not about you. They’re about God.
No matter what’s happening to you – whether you’ve fallen ill, lost a loved one, suffered a natural disaster, whatever – you are supposed to turn into a walking Gospel tract.
God’s goodness is supposed to be so amazing that heathens will take one look, gasp, and say where can I get me one of those?! when they see how At Peace and Gracious your relationship with Jesus has made you. Because you’re not supposed to worry. You’re not supposed to be angry, or question, or get depressed. Not for long, anyway.
Joseph, Paul, and Job: the Good Survivor Squad
But for the vast majority of us who can’t stuff all their feelings down and shove their questions to the side – well, we get blasted with the Good Survivor Squad, Joseph, Paul, and Job. You’ve heard about them in sermons about “rough seasons,” in meetings with your pastor or counselor, in brochures and devotionals. They’re the rock stars of repression.
Joseph is the Gracious and Wise Forgiver. He welcomes those who hurt him with open arms. He cries, but he claims it’s because he’s so happy to see them. He forgives, holds no grudges, and has no flashbacks. He says, “don’t worry. You may have hurt me, but God meant it for good.” He is at peace.
Paul is the Modest Self-Suffocator. He acknowledges that his hard times happened, but never that they hurt him. He’ll rattle off all, like, 51 (random guess) of his near-death experience, then “yeah, whatever” them away since they’re, like, minor league compared to Jesus, right? He considers himself the lowest of the low. He needs some goddamn therapy.
Job is the Silenced Questioner. He responds to rapid successions of tragedy by worshiping God, but when he finally cracks, he gets angry, depressed, and questions God. However, he comes back around and “repents,” saying he despises himself for being so arrogant as to not trust in God.
Unfortunately, Joseph, Paul, and Job are all bullshit paradigms. They are who we’re supposed to be, but they are not who we are. We were supposed to trust that God would take care of us no matter how confused or hurt we were, to never blame him for our pain, to take it all with a smile and a “thanks be to God.” No offence, but that’s bullshit.
This sucks. You’re allowed to say it.
I’ll admit it. I’m a Paul. I’ll acknowledge that things that’ve happened to me are, like… bad… I guess… but there’s no need to make a big deal out of them. I’ll stick a smile on my face and “it’s fine” it away. I get so uncomfortable when people call me strong or say anything that suggests my struggling is worthy of sympathy. Sometimes I even get angry. And that’s because little me, deep down, still thinks that hard times are not supposed to be about me.
Who are they supposed to be about? Beats me, cause I long stopped believing in Jesus.
But you know, maybe it’s okay to just straight up say it. Whatever you’re going through, you can say it: You are allowed to make it about you. You are allowed to say,
Listen, this fucking sucks. This is not good. This is not meant for good. This just sucks.
You are allowed to be angry. You’re allowed to be pissed.
You’re allowed to be depressed. To worry. To cry days, to cry nights. You’re allowed to feel lost, unbearably lost, alone, unbelievably alone. You’re allowed to hate God. You’re allowed to wonder why. You’re allowed to swear. You’re allowed to not feel anything at all.
You can go through this without marketing it to people. Without smiling or dressing it up, without turning it into some inspiring story. You can not see the bright side. You can rely on friends and family, or just yourself.
You can. You are allowed.
Those times when I say this to myself are the times when I write on this blog. And I’m now I’m saying them to you too. Your feelings? They’re yours. You don’t have to perform for anyone now. You can just be.
So go be. 🙂