A good friend of mine for over 15 years wrote to me recently. I knew him through church. He comforted me and guided me spiritually through the death of my dad in 1999, a very l0ng-distance courtship with my then fiancee (now my wife) when we were apart with me in England and her in South Africa and dozens more things, all guided by the wisdom of Faith and relationship with Christ.
He’s lost his faith. His situation changed and much of what had kept him close to Jesus was stripped away. His family moved to a new town where their new church ostracized them for no reason other than his health. The very people who should have been supporting him and his family pushed them away. His marriage ended in divorce and his health continued to fail.
Society offered him solutions. Grants, medical assistance, psychologists and most of all, unconditional, non-judgemental support for his situation. He was allowed to begin to recover in his own time as he was able to face the issues haunting him supported not by Christians, but by the World.
His rational and well thought through decision has been to turn his back on Christ. He tells me – with great sadness for me to hear – that he no longer believes in Jesus, that Christianity was merely a crutch, one he no longer needs.
How has the church allowed this to happen? This dear friend, at one point closer to me than even my own family, was chased away from Christ by people claiming to be Christian.
I knew another man. He was a boy then, but has matured. Thankfully. He told everyone he could about Jesus. He was a real “you’re all going to hell, directly to hell, do not pass ‘go’ do not collect $200” kind of evangelist in the way he talked to people. In parts of Africa where I now live, there is a real concept of Hell as a literal place. Many people live in a physical and spiritual wilderness and that kind of wake-up call works very effectively. Not so much in the South of England. His growing has made him an effective speaker of the Truth and he reaches people effectively and compassionately. He demonstrates Christ instead of ramming Him down people’s throats. And people are drawn to this.
I met a minister from America a few years ago named Dave Duell. He is the most wonderful, down-to-earth man it’s been my pleasure to meet. It was a privilege to sit with him and chat not just about Jesus directly, but life and living, the reality of hardship and the way God can turn situations around. When we met I didn’t know who he was or what his life had been like to that point. I didn’t find out until the following day that he was the Keynote speaker at the conference! He simply saw a clumsy young man trip over a guide rope for the meeting tent and went to help him up. This same man preached the Gospel to Yasser Arafat. He speaks to world leaders fearlessly about Jesus and he speaks to little children exactly the same.
The best teachers I have ever heard have all said the same thing. The Cross is a crutch. We are broken and need to lean on it. My friend I first mentioned used to remind me of this when I was so broken over losing my dad, my first fiancee and a very good job within the space of five months in 1999. He was failed by the Church.
He was failed by those leaders in the church who should have offered support and guidance the way he had to me. The way we are called by Christ to do. The way he did to me. His help, among others, rebuilt a shattered Christian back into a fierce and passionate Warrior for Christ, and I grieve for a fallen soldier and pray he find his path again.
We are all cripples. The issues I battled with in 1999 are still in my life. I battle them every day and more. My life in 2014 included cancer of not one but two family members, financial struggle and continuing to try to help my wife through a life-threatening illness, currently in remission, but one we know will ultimately claim her physical life. Every day is a battle. Every hour a struggle. Every moment I am reminded I do not have the strength to do this alone.
So I lean on the cross.
We are invited by Jesus to do so. He became like us so we could become like Him.
John Eldridge’s amazing book “Waking the Dead” puts it like this:
“The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.”
My life has been a battlefield since I became a Christian at the age of 13. There has been death, illness, persecution on a physical and mental level – as much as you get in the developed world, anyway. I have suffered rejection and had many, many chances to walk away from Christ. Each of these causes me to cling to Him tighter now, although at first I was tempted to let go as it would be “easier”.
Walk with a crutch. The Crutch of the Cross of Jesus Christ. It will never fail you, never break under the load, and support you in ways you never dreamed possible.
I’m a cripple, and I’m proud of it.
It gives me a chance to show what God can do with a weak and flawed human life.
I’ll keep my crutch, thanks World. It’s all I need.