Dr. Roger BarrierPreach It, Teach 2019 July
Editor’s Note: Pastor Roger Barrier’s “Ask Roger” column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Roger will respond in as timely a manner as possible. Due to the large volume of questions, patience is requested. When questions involve mental health issues, no part of any response to an “Ask Roger” question should be interpreted as a substitute for professional counseling from a licensed mental health professional. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been more miserable as a devout Christian. I do not enjoy life following the things I am taught at church. I mostly feel judged and pressured to be what I am not. I do not want to disappoint God so I have come to realize that I would rather die soon and skip to living in heaven. How do I pray for God to end my life on this earth?
No part of this response should be interpreted as being a substitute for professional counseling from a licensed mental health professional. Most counties in the United States have many licensed Christian-based counselors with whom you can contract. If you are dealing with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
I am so sorry that you are going through such a hard season of heartache and discouragement. We know we live in a fallen world, or in a world of “tribulation,” as Jesus said. And it’s so hard to anticipate or comprehend the impact of this fallen world on the lives of the very people He loves the most: those who are devoted to Him, as you must be, because you are a devout Christian.
I have several thoughts and suggestions I think will increase your hope until God changes the season you’re in. One thing that strikes me about your inquiry is that what you are being taught at church is making you feel judged and pressured.
Following Jesus offers the freedom of conviction, not the lie of condemnation.
I don’t know what kind of a church you are in. I hope its pastors are accurately teaching the word of God. Perhaps, they are not, as your email seems to imply. Without attending there myself, I cannot be sure.
Fortunately, although we know that church attendance at a church with loving pastors who preach the word of God is valuable for many reasons, we can and should follow Jesus Himself. We follow Jesus first. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all you that labor and our heavy laden.” (KJV)
When I preach, I ask the Lord to take my words and fashion them through the Spirit to speak to people in individual ways that are helpful to them. If anyone is in sin, as you probably know, God’s word will convict that person of the wrongness of any particular sin.
This conviction leads to repentance and to a sense of freedom! The opposite is true of condemnation.
It’s a hard lesson to learn (or habit to acquire) to look to Jesus, personally, rather than to look to a human being who may mean well but is binding people up with do’s and don’ts.
I don’t know if the pastors are doing this to you by twisting the word of God (or by taking scriptures out of context or by some other means), or if your interpretations of what they’re saying are inaccurate (your email is too short to know).
You can be assured that God’s love is unconditional, and He would never lead you into condemnation.
You are probably familiar with Romans 8:1 that says there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. There’s no condemnation to you, Geraldine! God has clothed you with a robe of righteousness and a garment of salvation and some day you will see it, feel it, and you will wear it proudly.
But God would want you to wait for his timing to don the robe and the garment in a tangible way in the heavenly realm. If, indeed, the pastors are preaching condemnation, that’s not a healthy church to attend.
I must remind myself many times throughout the day to get my eyes off myself, my faults, my many problems – even from the negativity of others – and, instead, get my eyes on God! How do I do this? By meditating on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, anything that is excellent and anything that is worthy of praise. You probably know that this is Paul’s strong advice in Philippians 4:8.
Geraldine, you have said that you are a devout Christian. Therefore, you are a sheep, a bought and paid for member of the body of Christ. Jesus paid an incredible price to purchase your salvation. Jesus says that His sheep hear his voice and follow Him.
God wants you to hear His voice.
God doesn’t want you to hear the voice of the enemy of your soul, or even the voice of a well-meaning person who judges and puts pressure on you.
When I pray for people throughout the week, I pray that God will speak to them often – that He will give them gentle nudges, that He will help them to think His thoughts and speak His words. Jesus is the embodiment of grace and truth, and so are His words!
When I counsel with folks, I pray with them that they will hear more than my words and that God will use the counseling session to speak to them, personally.
I don’t know a better way to become continually open to hearing God’s voice than to meditate on His word. When Jesus, our role model, was tempted in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting, He answered Satan’s deceptive words with passages of scripture.
Similarly, we must speak truth to lies.
For example, we must tell Satan that God won’t let us be tempted beyond our strength but will provide a way of escape from present difficulties. We must confess the truth that though we fall, He will not let us be “utterly cast down.”
We must confess that the eternal God is our refuge and that underneath us, His everlasting arms go much deeper than our hurt.