The cautiousness was present in his eyes the first time that I met him, though I did not quite yet know the depth of pensive hesitation that lie behind his glancing eyes and shifting posture. In some ways, aside from the blissful naivety of his youngest child, it seemed to me that the whole family was in retreat, determined to keep people at a safe distance, even as they were moving towards our church leadership expressing a desire to become a part of our faith family. Though I saw the defensive posture of a wounded and wounding family, I didn’t know quite what I was seeing. It would be years before the pixelated representation of their lives would come into focus. Yet, it almost never did. It was almost a decade before my friend courageously took a step of faith and slowly brought his real struggles and fears into focus, before he invited others to be a part of his messy journey of faith.
This past weekend during the depression and anxiety conference led by Dr. Edward Welch from the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF), he said, “One of the hallmarks of the kingdom of heaven is that we speak about what is on our hearts.” This statement grabbed my attention, not because I disagree with it, but because if this statement is true, why is it so rarely put into practice among God’s people? One reason is obvious: we’re afraid. What will people think of us if they know the truth about our struggles? Will they reject us? Will they indict us as a fraud? Will they break the bruised reed?
Another reason people do not speak what is on their hearts is because we are not contributing to a culture where people are invited to speak more of what is on their heart. Do I share my own struggles with anxiety, pride, fear of man, depression, etc.? Do people really know me? Of course, this creates a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. If I’m afraid of people rejecting me for not really possessing the strength of faith I project I have (and I project strong faith not because my faith is not real or genuine or to mask hypocrisy, but rather, because I’m not sure it’s safe to speak that honestly about following Jesus), then I’m not likely to talk about my struggles.
In many ways, this past weekend’s weekender on anxiety and depression gave us a foretaste of what Jesus desires the kingdom of heaven here on the earth to be like. For a few hours, our busy, well-manicured lives were interrupted with real words of comfort and honest confessions of specific fears, soul-eclipsing despair, and relationally isolating anxieties.
The culture of the kingdom of heaven is a world where, not only are we helping others, but we are willing to ask others for help. The kingdom of heaven is not for the strong; the kingdom of heaven is for the weak. Rather, the kingdom of heaven is for the meek. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Meekness isn’t a word we use very much. I’m not even sure it’s a spiritual quality many of us understand. We often think of meekness as weakness. We think of meek people as those who are simply submissive because they lack the resources to do anything else. We can certainly feel this way when we are overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, feelings of despair, and a sense of helplessness about the fear that is in front of us.
But true meekness isn’t measured by strength or weakness. It is measured by humility and trust. A strong person can possess meekness because they could assert themselves but choose not to. The spiritually meek trust God, commit their ways to God, and wait for God to act.
Meekness is required to become a people who speak what is on our hearts in the kingdom of heaven. Meekness is required because we have to trust God to use vulnerability and weakness as the means for us to experience God’s power. We speak what is on our hearts because this is how God uses the body of Christ – where each of us serve the purpose of building one another up (1 Corinthian 12:7) – to be helped and help others as we follow Jesus.
In closing, Dr. Welch said that a godly goal for the church should be that we really know one person well enough to know how to really pray for them. And by “really pray”, we do not mean the shallow prayers of general provision (though these prayers are not bad. In fact, they are real and necessary prayers. However, you don’t have to “know” someone to ask God to provide them a job. The point is, “Do I have a depth of relationship where my prayers can reach deeper than just below the surface?”). We “really pray” when our prayers are for God to do more in the hearts of his people, that we would know the love of God, we would grow in the knowledge of Christ, we would stand firm in the crucible of faith, and we would persevere in our faith until the end.
I wonder, “Does anyone (outside of your family) at Community Bible know you well enough to really pray for you?” It will take courage and humility for you to let a person know the truest version of who you are in Jesus. But as my friend has found out, as I am finding out, it is a risk worth taking.
Learning to Speak What’s on Our Hearts Together,