If we call ourselves Christians, then we are to take to heart the Bible’s instructions to bear one another’s burdens. And, in this day and age, there are many things we are burdened with whether it’s finances, relationships, family, health or career. At the Desiring God blog, pastor John Piper gives great counsel about what to say to those who are depressed, angry, doubting or skeptical:
1. Don’t be offended.
First, resist the temptation to be offended. Don’t pout or take your ball and go home. That’s what you may feel like. They wanted to talk, and here they are throwing my suggestions back in my face with a dismissive attitude. Don’t leave. Not yet. “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV).
Second, listen to their responses. Part of your power is not only what you say, but how they feel about the way you listen. If your truth produces empathetic ears, it will feel more compelling. This listening will be a witness. In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Paul describes the kind of engagement that may set people free from sin and error. One feature is “patiently enduring evil.”
3. End with hope.
Third, when you have spoken all the experiential counsel you can think of, and they seem to have demeaned it all, don’t let them have the last word of despair. You leave the last word of hope.
Read the whole thing.
We often use a special jargon that some of us, as Christians, are “believers” while others are not. While that is true, in a sense, when talking about a belief in Jesus Christ, the truth is that we all hold to some kind of beliefs. Tim Keller, in his excellent book “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism,” explains:
Some say [religion] is a form of belief in God. But that would not fit Zen Buddhism, which does not really believe in God at all. Some say it is belief in the supernatural. But that does not fit Hinduism, which does not believe in a supernatural realm beyond the material world, but only a spiritual reality within the empirical. What is religion then? It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing. For example, some think that this material world is all there is, that we are here by accident and when we die we just rot, and therefore the important thing is to choose to do what makes you happy and not let others impose their beliefs on you. Notice that though this is not an explicit, “organized” religion, it contains a master narrative, an account about the meaning of life along with a recommendation for how to live based on that account of things.
Some call this a “worldview” while others call it a “narrative identity.” In either case it is a set of faith-assumptions about the nature of things. It is an implicit religion. Broadly understood, faith in some view of the world and human nature informs everyone’s life. Everyone lives and operates out of some narrative identity, whether it is thought out and reflected upon or not. All who say “You ought to do this” or “You shouldn’t do that” reason out of such an implicit moral and religious position. Pragmatists say that we should leave our deeper worldviews behind and find consensus about “what works”– but our view of what works is determined by (to use a Wendell Berry title) what we think people are for. Any picture of happy human life that “works” is necessarily informed by deep-seated beliefs about the purpose of human life. Even the most secular pragmatists come to the table with deep commitments and narrative accounts of what it means to be human (The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, 15,16).
Tim Keller explains why he wrote “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”
Go here to hear sermons related to Keller’s book