Soul Sadness

Soul Sadness

I have just read an interesting quote.

‘A Pharisee who does nothing but focus on avoiding sin is still concentrating on sin, which makes him or her just as obsessed with sin as the person who voraciously lives in it. Both are consumed by sin – one to avoid it, the other to live in it. Both lack the joy, peace and freedom of life in Christ.’ (p88. Thirsting For God)

His point is that many believers today suffer from ‘soul sadness’  and a despondency as they fight with the battle of sin in their lives. We often wonder why there is a shortage of men putting themselves forward for the ministry today yet I think it can be traced back to this issue. Evangelicalism can be guilty of preaching not only a gospel of grace but practising a holiness of works. Men trapped in pornography,laziness, pride, lust, power, ego and a whole host of other pernicious sins think that if they buy a self help book, which promises 10 steps to freedom, or go on a ‘course’ to deal with their problem that somehow this will lead to instant freedom.

Preachers often say: ‘If you do the A then B will happen.’ But that isn’t always true, is it? So, are we sometimes guilty of teaching  a form of ‘holiness by numbers?’ When battling holiness issues, should we be focused less on the temptations that overwhelm us and more on the gospel of grace that frees us? Deeper still, how much blame should the plague of individualism shoulder for our current state of unprecedented levels of spiritual depression and inertia?

According to Thomas, ‘God intends for us to fight sin as an army, not as a soldier.We may seek to be Davids fighting Goliaths, but this is our arrogance exalting our courage, not God inspiring our resistance. God is glorified just as much when we are one of many fighting side by side.’ (p91)

He has a point, ‘if we are to mourn with those who mourn etc.’ How much of our coming together as ‘church’ is really just a bunch of individuals hiding the worst of their ‘wickedness’, singing a few songs together, listening to a sermon, offering up a prayer and a few quid for the offering plate and hoping to get out of the building without too much damage done or too many questions asked? Yet, is this not the place where we come together to find strength, peace and rest for our warring souls? If not, then where are we finding it? Where are we appeasing our guilt and our shame when sin comes calling? Is the reason that many of us are so sad because we feel so alone? Worried that if we really share what is going on how people would react to us?

The pressure on pastors at this point is enormous. We ‘have’ to be paragons of virtue. We must show no weakness, at least not to the ‘ordinary member.’ That would never do. That would ‘undermine their confidence’ in us, wouldn’t it? Would it? Wouldn’t it encourage our people to know that we have failings too? And not only that, they are not a million miles away from the trials and temptations of many of our people. Yet, the devil seems to have us all dancing to the same tune. Let’s discuss theology, let’s discuss the service, the weather, the football but never, ever discuss the state of our souls and the areas in which we battle constantly. Thomas says this:

‘What if we made the journey toward holiness a corporate pursuit instead of a solitary one?’ (p92)

That would be interesting wouldn’t it? I wonder what our churches would look like then? The battle for our souls has been won at Calvary. The battle for our joy is ongoing as is the long, slow march toward our future perfection. Why are so many of us doing it alone when we could be doing it together? Food for thought the next time we meet up with a Christian friend and the conversation drifts slowly into grumbling, gossip or superficiality.