February 12, 2021

Does ‘Weathering the Storm’ Equal Spiritual Maturity?

I was reading a book called On the Threshold of Hope: Opening the Door to Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Diane Mandt Langberg, when I was struck by a quote that seemed out of place. I re-read it several times, turning it over in my head. But I couldn’t seem to get past it.

It was one of those moments when everything kind of stops, and you’re forced to pause for reflection. I’d been distracted. My mind was elsewhere. I wasn’t 100% focussed on the book. I don’t know if this quote struck me because I’d actually been reflecting on the sentiment or because I didn’t like what it had to say:

We seem to label people who weather any crisis with little or no emotions as “spiritually mature” people. If that were true, Jesus was not very spiritually mature on some occasions.

The author then continues to think through times when Jesus was angry, fearful, or visibly displayed other strong emotions.

Superhuman Illusion

Even now, it makes me squirm that we can think the ability to appear to weather any storm is ‘spiritual maturity’. That superhuman, robotic, sheer determination of will, breezing through the most difficult of situations whilst appearing to be unfazed, undeterred or, more to the point, unmoved emotionally.

Can this remotely be considered ‘spiritual maturity’? Is this really what Christ intended persevering in the midst of a trial to look like? Having a stoical, cast-iron will? Sadly, in many Christian cultures, this is exactly what passes for maturity. It’s like they have taken “I’m fine” to a whole new level, and it saddens me. It saddens me more that we teach this to young Christians.

When we live in the facade of always “fine” no matter what, how can we expect to example how to hold fast to Christ in the midst of a storm? If we don’t dismantle the fake “all is fine” facade, we do others, ourselves, and Christ himself an injustice.

I’ve ranted about this many times but, I don’t know if that’s what’s really bothering me. The question I don’t really want to think about is: Am I like this? Do I “weather any crisis with little or no emotions?” I’m a fairly private person. I prefer to do my crying in private, but I’m far from emotionless. But the question is: Do I share those emotions with the right people. Or any people? 

Burden-Bearing—and Sharing—In Ministry

As I reflected on this, the classic movie—Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility—came to mind. Specifically, I thought of the scene where the Marian finds out Edward had been secretly engaged to Lucy Steel and realises Elanor has known all along. Marian’s accusation is: “Always resignation and acceptance, always prudence and honour and duty. Elanor where is your heart?”

“What do you know of my heart. What do you know of anything else but your own suffering? For weeks I’ve had this pressing on me without being at liberty to speak about it to a single creature. Being forced on me by the very person whose prior claims ruined all my hope… believe me Marian, had I not been bound to silence I could have produced proof enough of a broken heart, even for you.”

In part, it is practice from working front line in ministry, and also years of reigning myself in for other benefits. Professionally, tears in the main, were shed after various events (alone). Service in ministry, although a professional role, doesn’t have the same boundaries placed on it that other workplaces do. In the church, we are, after all, a spiritual family. We encourage one another to be intimately involved in each other’s lives. It’s an interesting line to walk—balancing between being open, sharing life-on-life, whilst being aware of going too far and overburdening others.

No matter how private a person I am, I must humble myself, kill my pride, and wisely share the struggles in my life. Not just because it’s a good example to young Christians of what it looks like to weather the storms while trusting in Christ, but also because God uses other Christians to remind us of his wonderful love, compassion, and care for us.

Depend On Christ

Recently, my mother passed away. I don’t have to explain, show you an example of my grief, or say anymore for you to understand how that felt. There’s so much weight behind four little words. I can’t muster the energy to stoically pretend I’m weathering the storm or somehow emotionless. Like Jesus, I wept. Yet, Christ reminds me daily who and what I really need to weather the storm well, wisely and maturely. Him, His Word, and His people.

Christian, remember this: Christ, God in human flesh, came and displayed His anger, His pain, His fear, His grief, and His love. He walked the path before us. Showing us, exampling the right way, the godly and mature way to deal with the trials we would face. His is the example we should follow.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

(Eph. 5:1)