Monday, January 7, 2013

Escaping Emotional Fragility

My pastor, Mark Vroegop, preached on Colossians 1:9-14 this weekend and relayed the story of Charles Simeon's life. One of the themes of Simeon's life was handling opposition and suffering. John Piper, a few years back, wrote a biographical sketch on Simeon, and I pass this on because it is like rare coinage:
What I have found – and this is what I want to be true for you as well – is that in my pastoral disappointments and discouragements there is a great power for perseverance in keeping before me the life of a man who surmounted great obstacles in obedience to God's call by the power of God's grace. I need very much this inspiration from another age, because I know that I am, in great measure, a child of my times. And one of the pervasive marks of our times is emotional fragility. I feel it as though it hung in the air we breathe. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition. 
A typical emotional response to trouble in the church is to think, "If that's the way they feel about me, then they can find themselves another pastor." We see very few models today whose lives spell out in flesh and blood the rugged words, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials" (James 1:3). When historians list the character traits of the last third of twentieth century America, commitment, constancy, tenacity, endurance, patience, resolve and perseverance will not be on the list. The list will begin with an all-consuming interest in self-esteem. It will be followed by the subheadings of self-assertiveness, and self-enhancement, and self-realization. And if you think that you are not at all a child of your times just test yourself to see how you respond in the ministry when people reject your ideas. 
We need help here. When you are surrounded by a society of emotionally fragile quitters, and when you see a good bit of this ethos in yourself, you need to spend time with people – whether dead of alive – whose lives prove there is another way to live. Scripture says, "Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:12). So I want to hold up for you the faith and the patience of Charles Simeon for your inspiration and imitation.
Charles Simeon: You can learn a lot from guys who are tough and dead 

I would surmise that emotional fragility is so rampant that it affects us like breathing in undetected chemicals. We all need to be mindful of how it zaps the strength and grace God gives us, much like a thief siphoning gasoline. The article and sermon were good reminders to spend some time with tough people and to become as tough as the grace of God will allow you to become on planet earth. Remember, the grace of God can be a tough thing. But tough isn't bad or wrong and tough can be satisfying and fulfilling. My pastor routinely says something similar, except is sounds wiser and more pithy coming from him:). Piper's transcript is here, read the whole thing. Tolle legge. TSID.

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