She sits across from me, perched on the edge of her seat, with her ankles crossed and fingers interlocked over her knee. She makes limited eye contact as she begins to describe the circumstances that brought her to this room. It’s obvious that she isn’t comfortable, but the hope for help and expectancy of change hold her here. She’s weary and searching for a hand to reach out and grab on to.
I’ve had the privilege of being the biblical counselor sitting on the other side of this scene, asking the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and gospel-clarity to share. These kinds of moments, however, when pain reaches out and love attempts to reciprocate, should not be unique to a counselor’s office. This is what should happen every day in living rooms, coffee shops, and crowded playgrounds. God, in his mercy and through his Spirit, has equipped every follower of Christ to be able to speak gospel truth and encourage others with the Word. Unfortunately, I haven’t witnessed this to be the norm for relationships in local gatherings of the Church. The need for more relationships saturated with the gospel and facilitating effectual growth, healing, and change should drive us to ask, “What keeps these kind of friendships from happening? What keeps me from pressing in to this?”
In my life the answer to those questions has been fear. Various fears—judgement, rejection or ineffectiveness—have driven me to stop short when it comes to developing deep relationships. By God’s grace alone I’ve learned how the gospel speaks directly to my fears and have been freed to taste and see how good true community can be.
I can remember thinking and operating this way. I was so afraid my friends would find out how truly sinful I was and that they’d politely opt out. I was worshiping others’ perception of me and denying what God had already declared about my identity! When God, out of the overflow of his love and by his grace alone, brings a dead heart to life and grants sight to spiritually blind eyes, he doesn’t begrudgingly tolerate us. He adopts us into his family and delights in welcoming us to his table! The perfect blood of Jesus atones for our rebellion and changes our identity completely. The Father looks at Jesus and says, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father looks at me and sees Jesus. The Father looks at me and is well pleased! When my heart is awakened to this beautiful truth, my worry of how I will look to others begins to fade. Humble gratitude stirs worship within me, and I let the veil of my own perceived self-righteousness be torn down. I can share my struggles openly, as well as extend judgment-free grace to others.
In addition to the fear of judgment or rejection, I have also seen how the fear of “not having anything good to offer” keeps women hiding behind the walls of surface-friendships. In Christ, we see that we can actually look this fear dead in the eye and say, “Yep. You’re right.” In our own flesh we don’t have anything good to offer. But by God’s grace we can echo Paul and affirm, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
They don’t need impressive sounding advice or more how-to’s; they need Jesus. So, all I need to do is move out of the way and let him love on her. How God actually works in each relationship will look very different, but we can trust that he will work.
And what a joy it is to be a part of sharing Christ’s love with someone else! God doesn’t need me in order to accomplish his will. I get to be a part of his work, and as my joy in him grows, he is even more greatly glorified through me.
Remember, you have been redeemed for a reason. Jesus not only saves us from; he saves us to. When we are rescued out of the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son, it’s for a specific mission. God has chosen to use each of us to bring the message of hope to the hurting world around us,and it is solely in him that we will find the ability to do so. The same Spirit who defeated death, indwells each regenerate believer, empowering us to do his work in our own small circles of influence! So take heart, you do have something great to offer, the most beautiful Gift to give. Trust the Wonderful Counselor to lead, he is forever faithful.
Myra Dempsey lives in the Columbus, Ohio area with her husband, Andrew, and their 3 children, Eli (5), Esther (3) and Gideon (1). Myra works part-time as a Licensed Professional Counselor and School Psychology Assistant. She blogs at dependentongrace.com, contributes to the blog for her home church, at vineyardgrace.org, and has been blessed to be the keynote speaker at the iAm conference in Powell, Ohio, an event for teen girls. She loves reading, writing, and talking about God’s glorious grace!