A Hard Story to Tell

Over the last ten years I have gained a lot of weight due to my back problems, aging, and my bout with depression. And I am sure getting addicted to pain pills did not help. I am 100 pounds more than I used to be. If you knew the old me, you would know a guy who was very confident about his looks. You would know a guy who is obsessed with working out. You would know a guy who would tell others about the benefits of eating right and exercise, pushing them to healthy living not only for the sake of their physical and mental health, but for their spiritual health as well. Now it is hard for me to go out in public to places where other people who knew the old me will be present. I know what they will think and I don’t want to put them or me through it. “What happened to you?” will enter their mind, though it won’t come from their lips. “Oh, how sad. Michael must be in some deep depression and eats a lot as a coping mechanism” is another. Or how about this: “I don’t think Michael is following the Lord.” And the worst: “Michael’s life must really suck.”

(Forgive me if I am making you uncomfortable. I don’t mean to. But it is a good illustration for what this blog post is really about.)

I have so much shame. Not just shame in the way I look. I have shame in the very fact I have shame. I should be confidently engaging people no matter how overweight I am. They don’t know why I am this way, but hiding out will only confirm their suspicions that my life sucks and the Lord is of no benefit.

When You Suck and Others Know it

Kinda setting that aside for a moment…

Why would anyone want to become a Christian? I often think that. When I am depressed and other people know it. When I am on drugs and can’t get off and other people know it. When my marriage is not going well and other people know it. When I am fat and other people know it. When I can’t pay bills and other people know it. When I am lazy and other people know it. When my kids are crazy and other people know it.

I am talking about myself. All those characteristics either fit me now or have been a good fit in the near past.

But a lot of those fit you as well. No? Let me add some: When I am divorced and other people know it. When I am an alcoholic and other people know it. When I am so much older and other people know it. When my kid is in jail and other people know it. When I lost my house and other people know it. When I am always anxious and other people know it. When I didn’t graduate and other people know it. When she broke up with me and other people know it. When I have such a unremarkable job and other people know it.

I have probably hit you by now. If I have not, then just wait . . . one of these or some other will one day apply to you.

This is why is it so much easier sharing Christ with those who know nothing or little about you. They don’t know that your life sucks. I am sorry if that is an offensive term but it is the best I have right now. Nothing else seems to work unless I go with something even more offensive.

But, really, just in general, the feeling of shame can come over me and I think to myself: What have I got that they don’t? They seem to be doing better than me so why don’t I just leave them alone. Christianity obviously does not guarantee that you will be happier, wealthier, or more stable in any one area of life than the next person. So what am I offering Christ to this guy? He already feels sorry for me and I want to make the proposal to him that he be more like me?

Why should I tell others about Christ when my life sucks?

Two Reasons We Still Tell Others About Christ

I know the answer. You do too. You are just caught up in the ethos of the world in a like manner as myself. But when push comes to shove, we know that we have reasons—very good reasons—to offer them Christ. We just don’t like to approach people downtrodden. We don’t like to approach people all dirty and messy. We don’t like to approach people while sinners. We just don’t like to approach people while in the mire of despondency. We want to wait until everything is clean and ready. We want not only to approach them with Christ, but with the bells and whistles of life. And if we wait until then, we may never approach anyone.

I have many reasons scribbled in my head, most with pencil, but two with permanent ink. Here are those two:

1. Because it is true: First and foremost, we share our faith with other people because we believe it is true. This is the most objective and important reason. As my sister and I talked about this today, she said something similar: “Because we know where we are going.” We know our future. We know the ultimate end.

I have to think that The Psalmist asked the same type of questions we are now:

Psalm 73:3-5:
For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles. Their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.

Don’t you love it? Leave it to the Psalms to express the exact same thoughts we think. In other words, “What good is God to them when they already have it made?”

He goes on:

Psalm 73:12-14
This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.

So what is the advantage to following God? Why should we tell others about Christ when our lives suck? Listen to David’s conclusion:

Psalm 73:16-17
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Because of their final destiny! Because they are not at peace with God. Because they are enemies on the side that we KNOW loses and loses badly. The Psalmist goes on to describe the destruction that awaits those who do not care about the forgiveness of their sins. It is a collage of anarchy and eternal restlessness.

Even when we see our lives in the most pitiful of conditions we can be confident about sharing Christ to others because what we believe it true. There are no guarantees of comfort in this life but our hope is the peace with God we have today (even amid the chaos, there is peace with God) and the glorious restoration of all things that we will experience tomorrow.

2. Because they will ask you “Why do you still have hope?” I have been surprised by this question many times. I say surprised, but I really mean blindsided. As I sat timidly with someone who I knew and who I knew had knowledge about all the [insert Pauline curse word that starts with an “s”, ends with a “t”, and has a “hi” filler] I had done and been through, they suddenly asked me the most unexpected question: “Why do you still love God?” He went on, “After all he has put you through, I can’t believe it.” My very first thoughts were, “How on earth would this person know that I still loved God?” I did not see any evidence of my faith. I felt like a total failure. Yes, I still had faith, but I thought I was holding it close enough to my chest to avoid being asked such a question. Really, I just did not want to be called a hypocrite. But have you ever noticed, being called a hypocrite and a phony are judgements that primarily come from those within the church, not from outside? (another story for another day). Those outside the church may often have a different perspective on your life.

You see, I did still have faith, I did still have peace with God, I did still love Christ and this guy somehow saw it. He saw it more clearly than I did. You know why he wanted to know why I still had faith? Because his life was a wreck as well and he needed to find something stable to hold on to. It is like we are all in a rushing river, drowning as the currents wash us downstream. And some guy comes by us as we have a solid rock that we are holding on to (maybe just barely holding on, but holding on nonetheless) and he says “Help!” They don’t look at you and judge you, laughing because you are in a rushing river, all they see is that you are stable and they want to be as well.

It’s like Peter said:

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

Many people use this as their primary verse that talks about defending your faith by apologetics (“The Apologists Creed”) and it certainly does have those implications, but the primary thing Peter is doing is speaking to his audience who is suffering. He has just talked about their suffering and wants them to get ready. Why? Because he knows that when you find that rock in the river to hold on to—the rock that saves your life—others will ask for your help.

Sure, some people will think you are crazy. “Look at that guy. Look at what has become of him. He is depressed, fat, and broke with no job and he still loves God. Haha. What a loser.” There will be those people. But there will also be those people who live in fear in the chaos of this world and want to know why you, being effected by the same chaos, still have hope.

Your answer may be like the Apostles when asked by Christ if they wanted to leave him since everyone else was leaving. Here is what they said: “We have nowhere else to go, you have the words of eternal life.” Your answer may be more than theirs. Either way, you have a stable rock and they want to know where to get one.

Conclusion

God does not wait for your life to be cleaned up before he calls you to Himself nor does He wait for your life to be all nice and neat before you are able to help others to the faith. If He had to wait for our lives to be straightened out before he used us to tell others about Christ, then He would have to use the angels to evangelize or no one would be in Heaven! We would never be qualified.

All of our lives will suck to a great degree. Whether this loathsome condition is one of our own self-making or one that is brought upon us by God, we can confidently tell others about Christ because it’s both true and because your loathsome condition just might be your best evangelism advantage that God uses.

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C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.

Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    15 replies to "Why Should I Tell Others About Christ When My Life Sucks?"

    • David McGrew

      One of your sermons from years back titled “God Helps” comes to mind. Thank you for baring your heart. Your willingness to show your hurt reminds the rest of us that we are not alone in our suffering and that true comfort can only be found in knowing Christ.

    • Joe Fox

      This post touched me deeply. Thank you so much! Thanks for the autheticity.

    • Jay Johnson

      Michael,

      Thanks for being open, honest and transparent. I understand how you feel. I feel the same way too sometimes. Be encouraged, because God is using you. Thank you for all the Credo Courses that help me in my personal walk and in my pulpit ministry.

      By the way, Psalm 73 is a psalm of Asaph. I just preached that one recently.
      God bless you, brother.

      Grace and peace,

      Pastor Jay Johnson

    • Prometheus

      Very nice … and true. 🙂

    • Dave Z

      Having struggled with some of the same things you list, I have come to wonder if maybe they are my thorn in the flesh, to keep me from becoming conceited. There is enough pride in me to do that fairly easily. And of course, all the “I am…. [insert negative thought here]” statements do spring from a place of pride.

      Also, speaking faith from a place of pain can be deeply meaningful. All of us have that place of pain, and it’s very powerful to see someone else deal with it through confidence in God’s plan and presence. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him!”

      I’ll tweak one of your statements just a little: “He is depressed, fat, and broke with no job and he still loves God. What an inspiration!”

      I know that’s true, because you have long been an inspiration to me, for many reasons. I have learned much from you.

    • John L.

      Thank you. I am going through a very difficult time. Praise Jesus for your post.

    • Mo

      Thank you for being willing to share this.

    • D.

      Thanks. That was refreshing. And so true.

    • John S Oliver

      I have retired to a community of senior citizens. Most of my neighbors are widows in their 70s and 80s. They stay at home watching TV constantly. They are seriously stuck in their ways.

      I attend a local church that talks about missions and outreach but after years I have witnessed many small attempts with very little fruit.

      I do not have a car. So I pondered how I can be used by God to proclaim the gospel.

      My conclusion was to give a modest amount to my local church and give a little to many ministries like this one each month. All of that is done automatically.

      I feel good that little by little my resources are going to fuel those that I trust have been communicating the truth of the Bible in love.

      I am making a difference by supporting those that are on the front lines of taking the light of Christ to the spiritual darkness.

      I send funds to both those that emphasize evangelism to reach the lost and those that emphasize discipleship to build up believers like this one

    • Matt H

      Thanks for sharing this Michael. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs from MercyMe
      “I can count a million times, people asking me how I
      can praise You with all that I’ve gone through.
      The question just amazes me. Could circumstances possibly
      change who I forever am in You?”

      I liken this to how we adopted kids into our home – we did all the work to adopt them – we gave them a new name and they’re forever ours and share in our inheritance. When they disobey our rules and screw up (which happens a lot!), it doesn’t change their identity because their identity is not grounded in what they do. Likewise, Jesus did all the work that we could never do to adopt us into His family; our circumstances in life (no matter how much it sucks and was self-inflicted) could never change that new name and identity we have in Him. Hallelujah!

    • Matthew

      Good thoughts! I appreciate your openness and courage, plus the inspiration and encouragement to truly live out our hope, even when there are things in our lives that suck.

    • Christopher Chisale

      Great thoughts. I am encouraged too—you verbalised what I was going through, and am going through. The experience is one where you think “why on earth do I have to suffer like this? I have prayed and fasted and cried yet no let-up….” Deep inside though, you know God loves you and wants you to continue to be faithful. There is such a tug of war between your daily experience and the self-pitying shameful thoughts you think but can not verbalise about God abandoning you to your own devices when you have been faithful to Him! Thank you.

    • Jim Walker

      Thank you, Michael. You are helping a whole whole bunch of us out here. I am happy to pray for your family, your health, your ministry and for your state of mind. Keep writing and sharing.

    • JJ Miller

      Either way, you have a stable rock.

      Want to know where you got me? Yep, that description of the Stable Rock we have amongst the raging waters. That is it. I mean, the reality of that. Understand what I mean?

      It is like #1 doesn’t really matter if it isn’t paired with #2. It’s not simply that I have a Rock, it is that I understand that the REALITY that really exists is that I have this Rock…and it keeps me stable, even in the raging waters of failures, deep hurts, angry thoughts, escapes I try when I lose track of it all…through it all, I can walk into this world with stability, dare I say it, with JOY that is because of the reality of the Rock, my keeper and deliverer.

      When I do discipling now, it is the first thing I nail down. Rephrase that: When Jesus does discipling he nails it down. Where? How? For one place, in his 8 kingdom parables: The well known parable if the Hidden Treasure (which so many just pass over as more of the same Stories of Jesus). Well, grant me this one thing: The Hidden Treasure is Christ Himself. And if a Treasure, it is because he provides so much to us. Yes? Ignoring the rest for time sake, why in the world does the parable mention the man (disciple’s) joy??? Because it is undeniable. No, he doesn;t give up everything to obtain Christ… he can never buy Christ…impossible. But having Christ (the Treasure) he makes it more sure, if you will…and does it out of JOY. Where did that Joy come from?

      The man compares it to a Treasure. If you or I won $58 million in the lotery this week, would we be happy, joyful? Absolutely yes. Why? Because we have money??? Not really. Isn’t it because of the benefit of the money, the choices we can now make? Yes? So, if the joy of winning lottery (finding hidden treasure) manufactured somehow? No. Not even slightly. This is why this parable is so powerful. Just as our joy over something REAL and ABSOLUTELY SOLID (like $58 million), so the JOY over Christ in our lives is authentically real. THAT IS THE POINT. (both #1 and #2 together).

      If we, as Christ followers, look at our lives and say, but it is full of crapola…where is this joy? Perhaps we have walked away from truth #1 and #2. We don’t see Christ as REAL and ABSOLUTELY SOLID, able to save, able to help, able to secure, able to transform, able to take over our lives and give us lives of such meaning and purpose that we can be nearly giddy at the mere thought of that reality. NO….No, I am not saying that we must BELIEVE that Jesus is THAT real and Absolutely solid. Nope. I am saying that HE IS. He is in reality that… and get this… that reality is much more real than the $58 Million..because we humans have created this fake thing called money that we use. Which is more real? That is why JOY bubbles up for the man, it’s not faked in the slightest.

      Last: Think, why did Jesus give us these 8 parables? WHy give them to the disciples? To get them through what you and I can not even imagine: becoming the church from scratch amid immense persecution and all our human failings. How was that ever going to work: Jesus making us responsible to grow his Church. Clearly, one of the 8 things he needed us to know is that we had to have this JOY that was based on the reality we have in Christ…our treasure beyond all treasures, the one for whom we could give absolutely all and still buble over with Joy unspeakable.

      There is the verse that I cling to daily (along with 7 others) for that: Matthew 13:44. And this, I thought, fit so well with your #1 and #2, I thought I would this in part.

      • JJ Miller

        * correction: “So, Is the joy of winning this lottery manufactured some how? No. Not even slightly.

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