What We Need to Know in Our Struggle
Words by Lauren Weir
Sharing our burdens with friends usually comes naturally. We share our anger, our worry, our frustrations. We disclose unmet expectations and confusing circumstances. We want to be known, and we want relief from our suffering. We grasp for light, for hope, for deliverance. As we share, the disconnect between what we know to be true about God and what we feel in our everyday experience surfaces. At the end of airing our grievances, we try to bridge the gap between our emotional response and our faith:
"But I know I'm supposed to forgive."
"But I know God's grace is sufficient for me in my weakness."
"But I know God is good and all of this has some purpose behind it."
"But I know I'm not supposed to be angry or ungrateful."
But following the passion of our stories, our words sound more like a defense mechanism than a hope that anchors and comforts the soul. These "I know" statements don't ring with quiet conviction, but of bitterness, of a weariness from trying to believe. We know that these truths should move us, and knowing that leaves us with shame. Because if these truths are moving us at all, it's toward more anger, disappointment, and underneath it all, a deep sadness.
What we really know is that we hate our circumstances, we hate the inner pain and struggle, and we hate that the truth we know about God doesn't liberate any of these feelings but complicates them with a layer of loneliness.
We know these truths like Sunday school answers, but Scripture invites us to know the God who says them.
Does that invitation seem more offensive than full of grace and freedom?
You're not alone. The people in John 6 took great offense to a similar invitation (v. 61). They'd just had their bellies filled with heavenly fish and divine loaves. Jesus miraculously provided literal food for them in a desolate place, and they wanted more. They'd had a taste of closeness with Jesus and were ready to make him a king. They wanted to ensure they'd always have this comfort, always have provision for their physical needs.
When they found Jesus, he revealed there to be much more to know about him than his delivery of good things.
“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal’” (John 6:26–27).
Jesus said to them, in essence, that they were seeking him for their own agenda. They were too near-sighted, too finite in their request. Too unwilling to acknowledge what all their wanting actually revealed about their hungry hearts. He offered them the bread that will satisfy them always. But if ever they could receive the bread, they would have to acknowledge the deep, unsatisfied hunger lacing through their every desire.
This invitation to never hunger nor thirst again made them stiffen with disdain. It offended them. Why?
I wonder if it's because we'd much rather sit on plush lawn being handed miraculous food, talking with our friends about Jesus rather than allowing him to be King over every square inch of our hearts. We'd rather seek him for our own finite agendas, having our bellies filled, our relationships harmonized, our comfort maximized, our security established, our honor untarnished, than to be vulnerable about the need that runs rampant in our souls. We'd rather treat God as something to be manipulated than as Someone before whom we fall on our faces.
In our pride, we think we know the best outcome of our stories. We know the roles others should play, and we know most certainly that we should not be in such pain and hardship. Especially not while others around us enjoy the blessings God is evidently withholding from us.
And we say that we know God is loving and God is good and this pain has purpose, but couldn't life be different? Couldn't we have a King who gave us a better life than this? Who gave us everything we want?
When we live in this me-focused mindset and tack on a finishing statement of what we know about God, it becomes a little more obvious as to who possesses kingship of our lives. This is why the invitation of God often offends. It is one of surrender. To forsake living for our little kingdoms and to know him, the King of kings. Because the famine that exists under our reign will always leave us wanting.
When Jesus called them to acknowledge their hunger, they got defensive. Who are you anyway? We know God gave manna to our fathers in the wilderness.
Jesus bid them to see the wilderness of now. He proclaimed: "I am the bread of life.… I am the living bread that came down from heaven" (John 6:48, 51a). Acknowledge your hunger and your rehearsed knowledge of God that is leaving your appetite for the things of this world ravenous. Come to Jesus and eat.
The invitation is to know Christ here. In this place of confusion, of frustration, of bitterness and unmet expectations. It is to face the finite ways you've sought him and receive his invitation to satisfy your hunger. It is to acknowledge, “I thought I knew, but I confess I do not. I say I know, but what if I really don’t?”
Forsake earthly food that perishes and receive the food that endures to eternal life: Jesus himself. Embrace Jesus Christ, the bread of life, broken for you. Take hold of your daily bread and discover the ways he chose to identify with you, chose to endure the very pain you're walking through, so he might forever be the One who looks to you and says with utmost compassion and understanding from experience, "I know."