These turbulent economic times have challenged me again as to how as a Christian I deal with stress, worry, fear and sufferings real and imagined. I contrast my largely head in the sand hope it will all pass me by approach (otherwise known as denial) with the example of Christ.
When it comes to the ultimate realisation of suffering and death in the events leading up to, on and through the cross I get the impression that Jesus chose neither denial, blind panic or enlightened self-interest by suddenly hearing he was needed to do some healing outta town that week...
Instead Jesus, it seems to me, set his face on going to Jerusalem, deliberately embracing moments of poignant celebration, radical symbolic antagonism and semi-private agony as he honestly wrestled in prayer over what was to come.
In all these moments I've also noticed that Jesus is never intentionally alone, from the temple, to the pass over meal, from the garden where his sleepy friends struggle to stay awake - to the cross where the woman and John look on there are people he knows and loves him there. The suffering may deliberately have been chosen to be public but Jesus, his friends and family refuse to let it become a private event.
So how does that relate to our own occassions where the preverbial crap of life hits us as we carry the cross of our faith?
Well I am convinced that having a community of people within church who I can share these moments with is more and more crucial, especially as the rest of the spaces in my life where i relate to people become more and more guarded. You may be able to think of other reasons but these are some of my own thoughts:
1. Honesty - it's refreshing to be able to share with people the pain of life as well as the pleasures. Increasingly with people I know through work or with the neighbours around me I deal with the pressures of the credit crunch with black humour or some sort of resigned indifference. It is all of a sudden so fashionable to have not much money and almost boast about the cutbacks that I'm making. But who do I get to share my fears with, to open up and be honest with? For me that is people from my community of faith.
2. Sharing - it also seems to me that our world economic system is based on scarcity, so when things in the market place gets scarce I want to hold on to what I have (hence cool to boast about spending less!). It is tempting to cut back on giving to church, on giving to my friends on pulling back my horns and just not seeing people or being more relucantant to entertain etc. Within the church community it is opportunity to challenge the fear and scarcity and learn again about giving, sharing, meeting people's needs and not soley focussing on how my needs will be met.
3. Involving God - I do like living my life as my life at the best of times. In moments of worry and stress I tend to go in denial and repeat the mantra that everything will be ok, to go into denial and shut off any negative emotions. In being honest, in sharing with others, it also opens me up to being reminded and experiencing God in my life. To face issues, to get prayer, to wrestle with God, to face pain with people who love, support and encourage me, who genuinely want the best for me and for me to do likewise. It is good for me to have people who will try and burst my private bubble and for that space to be invaded with God and his character rather than left to me and my own self focus.
Maybe you can think of some other good reasons from your own experiences that you would like to share?