Biblical counseling allows for very honest conversations to be fostered in a safe, truthful, gracious, and raw environment.
And as much as we enjoy the sentiments of that first sentence, many say, “I no longer have those conversations – I have stopped talking to God and I’m certainly not going to share with others. In fact, those conversations bring fear and despair. I’ve stopped talking.”
Why Do Conversations Stop?
Talking about our issues seems to be in vogue today. However, for as many who talk and weep, there are just as many who have shut down and gone silent. They will say, “God has let me down, the church has let me down, and I’ve let myself down. I’ve sinned so much and no help came so I’m afraid there is no gospel left.”
Others will say, “You don’t understand. The gospel says I’m free but I live in the chains of lethargy and lust, bitterness and self harm. I’m chained like ‘an ox being led to the slaughter’ in Proverbs 7. That’s my story.”
And they will have no more conversations.
Crushing Despair in the Midst of Great Hope
How can conversations stop when God offers so much hope and others offer so much compassion?
Let’s take Romans 5 as an illustration.
This triumphant chapter is filled with hope! We love these conversations. Even in affliction, we find hope that will not disappoint. Hope is grounded in the life and death of Jesus (Rom. 5:6-11), from which we receive the free gift of overflowing grace (Rom. 5:12-21).
Who wouldn’t want this conversation?
But then… those two dreaded words … but then … but then life’s cruel, unfair, and angry head reappears and the cutting continues, the same websites pop up, the same angry words are “volcanoed” out of our hearts and we question abundant grace and freedom from sin. We question hope as we say, “I wasn’t meant to battle like this, I was created to do great things for God and His kingdom!” And so we stop talking to God and others.
How Does God Help Us Talk Again?
The book of Romans is not just a theological discussion. It is a personal conversation for struggling hearts.
In Romans 6:1 God essentially calls us out. He gets past the hypocrisy and the “safety of self-righteousness” and tells us we will vehemently struggle with moving our lives from the truths of Romans 5 to the raw realities of Romans 6-8.
What do we do with all this blessing discussed in chapter 5? God says we will shut down and hide like our father Adam and his wife Eve.
So God invites conversation and warns against shutting down when he asks: “What shall we say?” This is not a nifty sermon transition but rather a lifeline for struggling believers. This is God’s invitation to talk. “This is difficult but let’s keep going and let’s keep talking. Don’t shut down.”
Why Do We Shut Down?
With all this abundance of grace we should be on fire for God. Romans 6:1 should cause us to say, “I’m all in. I’m a radical Christian. I am laying it all on the line.” And ten other soothing Christian clichés.
But sadly, in our hearts we respond to grace with this question: Should we (I) continue to sin so that grace may abound? In other words we say, “Maybe I can live in both worlds and negotiate the grace of God with my sin. Maybe I can have that affair and God will overwhelm me with grace?”
Who wants to say that to God and to others?
Who wants to say to their accountability partner, “I know it’s not supposed to be this way but I really, really love my sin. I hate it and I am racked with guilt and shame but boy do I ever love it. And I keep going back. And it brings such relief. I want to go back to my sin and still toy with God’s grace.”
We Shut Down Conversations God Begins
In our polished and clean churches, we can give the right answers and be the right people. But Paul won’t allow for polished and clean and insists on messy and rugged.
Do we stifle conversations with others when we move too quickly to Romans 6:2, “How can I who died to sin live in it any longer?” We tell people right away about triumphant Jesus. But people aren’t always there because Romans 6:2 is not their experience. Their experience is more death than life, sin than obedience.
Where Conversations Begin
What if we stopped hiding and began to be really honest with God? What if we lingered a little longer with God (and others) in Romans 6:1? “God, I’d like to speak but I’m afraid because I’m really attracted to my sin and I don’t want to give it up. I want to negotiate with you. I love sin and grace – together.”
Have you ever been really honest with someone about a very difficult issue? The results may not have been what you hoped but at least you’re not carrying the weight of it anymore. It’s out in the open, no more hiding.
What if we were honest again? What will you find as God listens?
You will find God actually listens and then talks a lot – a lot – about Jesus in Romans 6. You will find in Romans 7 a God who is present with you in your struggles. And in Romans 8 you will find such comfort and grace that even a verse like Romans 6:1 will never separate you from the love of God.
You will have to hear this a few times but they are words that begin to find a place in your solitude.
God is a good and gracious conversationalist. He listens well. In and through our conversations, God changes us even when we don’t notice how.
Would you speak again to God and others?
Questions for Reflection
Have you stopped talking to God and others about the sin in your life? How do you address counselees who have shut down and stopped communicating their sin struggles?