Last night our family watched Pixar's Inside Out and yes, I'm very late to that Pixar party. I enjoyed the film. The personification of Joy and Sadness was extraordinary. Joy was constantly on damage control, constantly refusing to allow Sadness to have a place in Riley's life. In one insightful scene, Joy draws a circle and demands (passively & aggressively) that sadness remain inside it. I found myself convicted at that very moment.
How many times have I been across from someone in real pain, but because of my own discomfort, sought to fix those who are weeping instead of weeping with those who are weeping? A life comprised entirely of joy requires a denial of reality. Christ said that He is our hope in sadness. Spiritual maturity is never described in the scriptures as the ability to eradicate one's life of sadness. The Spirit's work in applying the gospel is that increasingly, we have Joy in sadness.
The gospel is not a mental strategy where Christians develop different thinking patterns to bypass or alleviate pain. The Father's love through the Spirit's work by the preaching of Christ brings spiritual renewal that heals our pain.
The "transformation and renewal of the mind" that Paul speaks about in Romans 12 is not rooted in Romans 12. The context for Romans 12 is chapters 1-11. Preaching Romans 12 like it's rooted in Romans 12 is like drawing circle around those who are suffering and telling them not to leave until they're transformed and their minds are renewed.
Every person who walks through the doors of our churches deals with a measure of sadness. They're sick or someone they love is. They're in lack or someone they love is. They're suffering or someone they love is. They're worried or fearful or someone they love is ...
The gospel gives us a beautiful promise: That we are overcomers through Him who loved us. To be clear, we are not overcomers - end of sentence. Therefore, our churches are to be safe places to confess our weakness and boast in Christ's strength.
Deists claim that positive confession turns spiritual realities into physical realities and those in sadness must think positively and confess positive things about their situation. The gospel is the exact opposite of positive confession - it's weakness confession. In his letter to Corinth, Paul recounts how he cried out three times to God asking to be delivered from his suffering,
Christ Himself said that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Getting rid of sad people in our churches is as easy as drawing circles around them. All we have to do is confess our strength, not our weakness. Talk about God's grace, but never our struggle with sin that warrants it. Talk about how thankful we are for God's gospel but never confess that it's because we aren't keeping His law. They'll get the hint and leave. They'll get that our churches aren't for those struggling with the pain and sadness of sin but for those who've transcended it.
May the Holy Spirit apply the gospel to our hearts so that we are free to humbly confess our weakness and enter into the sadness of others. May God deepen His saving work in us so we don't quarantine those who weep, but weep with those who weep.