This week, the Roundtable Counseling blog embarks on a journey to respond to the most common questions raised by counselees as we walk with others through struggles and trials. Over the next several weeks, we will attempt to provide a biblical response to common questions with the hope that we will all be encouraged by the truth of God’s Word and the compassion of His heart. Our first question is:
Why can’t I just be normal like everyone else?
This is an earnest question born out of struggle. If you are asking this question, you’ve likely been suffering for quite a while. Perhaps you are weary of the battle for hope and feel alone in your suffering. The sins done against you make you feel different than everyone else. And you look at everyone else and ask yourself, “Why do they not hurt like I do?” Or maybe it’s not your pain you are wrestling with but your desires. And the fight against them has left you exhausted and ashamed. And you look at everyone else and think, “If they only knew what I really want!” Whatever the case, it is worth acknowledging that this question about being normal is earnestly born out of the weight of pain and/or suffering.
But rather than answering the question directly, it is better, first, to take a step back and think about the assumptions beneath the question. Jesus often does this when someone asks him a question. For instance, the rich young ruler comes to Jesus and says, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” In His wisdom, Jesus recognizes that underneath the rich young ruler’s question is a wrong understanding of man’s “goodness” and ability to merit eternal life. So Jesus challenges the man’s assumptions by asking, “Why do you call me good?” (Luke 18:18-30). Often by unearthing the beliefs beneath the question and addressing those instead, the questioner is far more helped than by answering the question at face-value. In this blog series where we address common questions of a counselee, you will see us do this quite often.
The major assumption underlying this question is that most other people are normal. We don’t have to look any further than our Facebook feed to see how we come to such a belief about others. In comparison with the happiness and normality that is projected on social media, of course you feel abnormal! You see your friends’ pictures and cannot help but compare them with the fight you had with your spouse last night and the waywardness of your children. But should social media really be the source of truth concerning man? Should we really compare the internal wrestlings of our hearts with the public image others project?
A better source of truth concerning man is, of course, the Word of God. What does the Lord say about what is normal? How does God describe the “normal” experience of mankind? Remember, all things are ultimately defined by God – not man. Listen to what Peter says is normal when he exhorts those who are suffering, “Resist [the devil}, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). To be normal is to suffer! To be normal is to be in the fight for hope in the midst of pain! Friend, you are not alone in your suffering. Even though the circumstances and details of your pain may differ greatly, your brothers and sisters everywhere – from those in your neighborhood to those on the other side of the world – are experiencing “the same kinds of suffering.”
Paul says the same thing about our struggle with sin: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). You may feel like you are the only one among your friends or your church who struggles with addiction to alcohol and pornography, who struggles like you do in relationships. But according to God’s word – the only reliable source of truth concerning man – you are not the only one! The fight to love your spouse well is commonplace. The battle against addiction is ordinary. Your temptations and struggles are, in fact, so common that even our Lord himself experienced them while on earth, though without falling into sin (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15).
Of course, saying that your pain and temptation to sin are commonplace does not make them easy. Not at all! We are not saying, “Everybody struggles, get over it!” Quite to the contrary, God’s Word speaks of the universality of your struggles to relieve you of the isolation and stigma you feel as you face things that are rightfully burdensome. And, as the body of Christ, we are called to bear one another’s burdens – to encourage, help, and speak the truth in love as we walk together through this fallen world. Since we all struggle similarly but in different circumstances, there is no place for shame in the body of Christ. And when we bring our struggles into the Light of His Word and His people, the weight of carrying the struggles alone is lifted, bringing much-needed freedom and relief. As you journey toward Home, look around – your brothers and sisters in Christ are struggling right there with you. You wanted normal? You got it!
Next week we tackle the question: Why can’t I just be happy? Stay tuned …