Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Troubled Christians in Pilgrim's Progress Part II

All the King's subjects are not champions; nor can they, when tried, do such feats of war ... Is it meet to think a little child should handle Goliath as David did? Or that there should be the strength of an ox in a wren? Some are strong, some weak; some have great faith, some little.

We've all known good-hearted, troubled Christians. Let's be honest, we're all troubled and broken in some way. Spiritually troubled: uncertain of our salvation, prone to introspection and guilt, or disturbed by feelings of God's absence. Emotionally troubled: battling addictions, anxiety or depression, hurt by relationships, or socially fearful and awkward. Intellectually troubled: confused about the truth, struggling with doubts, or mentally incapacitated. Physically troubled: sick and exhausted, in pain or chronically ill, or homeless and poor.

It's easy to neglect those who are deeply troubled - I know, I have done it myself, to my shame. To avoid their uncomfortable company and disturbing doubts and wounds we can't easily heal and sorrows unresponsive to comfort and difficult questions and unsettled hearts. Perhaps we talk mainly to our friends at social gatherings, ignore certain phone calls, or minister only to the eager and enthusiastic. After all, it's simpler to overlook those who absorb our energy and attention, don't fit into our visions for mission and church growth, or aren't easily helped to grow and change.

No Puritan pastor worth his salt neglected troubled Christians. Where we might refer a "difficult case" to a counsellor, Puritan pastors willingly carried the burden of counselling those who were troubled, sensitively and bracingly bringing God's truth to bear on their problems. I wish I could tell you all the Puritans' sane and sensible advice about spiritual desertion, doubts of assurance, and depression, but that will have to wait for another day. Instead, let's take a look at the many "weak" Christians in Pilgrim's Progress, and how we are encouraged to care for them. ...

Read the rest at EQUIP book club.

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