This morning, I listened to a little bit of a Christian radio show in the car. Two women were talking, one of whom had written a book called something like Dancing in the Rain. It was based on the quote “Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain.” The women were talking about suffering as Christians and how to manage suffering according to Scriptural principles. They had some decent stuff to say about suffering. But, as they were getting started, one of the women made the comment that “people are watching.”
People are watching. Having grown up in Evangelicalism, I know exactly what that means. Don’t ruin your testimony. People watch how you react to circumstances. Your entire life is an open book to non-believers, so you need to be a perfect model Christian so that when you do get to share the Gospel, they can see that you were living out Jesus’ love perfectly. This same sentiment comes out in John Piper’s Don’t Waste your Cancer, the book and the article.
This reminds me of Beth in Little Women, Beth was always sick, but always wanted to be helpful when she could. She suffered very well. She never complained, except maybe that she was too much of a burden on the rest of the family. Beth is the epitome of what a sick person should be.
I call bullshit! God allows a lot of suffering to go on in this world. He doesn’t always let us know why. Some people have years of pain and difficulty while others may find that they have very short period of pain. Whatever the case, we need to remember James 1 is just one place in the epistles where we are encouraged to take heart because of our struggles - “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
In all of the passages on suffering, we are exhorted to look to God for our strength and to pray. We are reminded of the strength that comes from Jesus. In none of the verses on suffering do the apostles or other writers tell us that our activity and attitude during our suffering reflects back on Jesus or influences the eternal souls of other people. Never are we told to “Buck up, Buttercup! God’s depending on you to make him look good!”
Why is this important? Because we need to be able to live our authentic and true selves in front of a hurt and dying world. They don’t want our fake Christian masks. Obviously, we don’t share everything with everyone, but we have to be honest. People who have not yet followed Jesus know when we are faking it. They see through us. They don’t want whatever we’re playacting. If the want Jesus, it’s going to be because they see that even in the hard times, we are still walking with Jesus.
I’ve had chronic migraine for 13 years. I can’t play the “smile and wave, boys” game all the time. If I feel terrible, it’s going to show. Maybe I’m wasting my chronic migraine. I don’t think so. I’m living my life. God can (and does) work through that. If you are a Christian and you are going through a rough patch, don’t hesitate to let people know. Don’t wear the shiny, happy Christian mask. Jesus was willing to be put to death on a horrible Roman cross for us. I don’t think he’s real into “appearances” and I think the God of the universe can manage his own reputation. It’s up to us to live our lives, walking with Jesus, and being as authentic and honest as we can with the people around us. Then, we’ll just have to see where that leads us. We can’t go too far astray if we’re with Jesus! So, dance in the rain! And don’t worry about other people watching!