Whether or not you hold to the Christian faith I believe that in the ancient scriptures there is much wisdom to be found. Whatever it is you believe I hope that your eyes will be opened to how applicable it may be for all.
There is a dialogue found in scripture between Jesus and Satan. Jesus has just spent 40 days in the desert when Satan shows up on the scene to tempt him.
How does he do this?
He quotes scripture.
How does Jesus reply?
Satan begins by tempting Jesus to meet his hunger. “Turn those rocks over there into bread, Jesus.” Jesus answers, “ It is written, man cannot live on bread alone.”
Satan then tempts Jesus with 2 other things.
To call down angels to save him and with the offer of power.
When Satan quotes scripture backing up the things he is offering, Jesus retorts with, “It is also written.”
I was struck by this and how it has played out in my life. There have been times when I was riddled with shame and certain verses in the Bible have played on this fear. I have ignored the passages about unconditional love and mercy and exchanged them for ones which condemn me and threaten hell.
It occurred to me that to believe scripture I must hold both in tension.
Black and white thinking, either-or thinking can be referred to as dualistic thinking. I throw out one thing for another. In other word how can I both be guilty and yet forgiven? How can I be in utter turmoil yet joyful. Uncomfortable yet comforted. Discouraged and encouraged at the same time.
Able to hold two truths at the same time.
We could go all day long retorting passages with “it is also written.”
I have failed. It is also written, I am forgiven.
I am unworthy of love. It is also written, that I am loved.
I’ve gone too far, I am hopeless. It is also written, I am never without hope.
God has left me. It is also written, He will never leave nor forsake me.
Seriously, we could go all day. I could go all day.
This is the power of knowing the scripture and holding in faith that two things in tension can both be true.
I am undeserving, yet deserving.
Unworthy, yet worthy.
Alone, yet sought after.
Powerless, yet powerful.
How freeing this thought. It is applicable in so many ways in our very real practical lives.
I have struggled with many things in my life which have led me to live at times with great shame and disappointment. God has never left me there. Never. When I turn to Him in faith I find that although my failures are very real they are not the final word on me. I am both a failure and a victor. How beautiful this thought is. How hopeful.
I think of real examples of this. Mothering is so hard at times. I have felt that I have wounded my children beyond repair and yet when I own what I have done those precious little ones have held my face and said, “I forgive you Mommy,” and proceeded to skip away in childlike joy.
I have fallen into the trap of addiction many times in ways too numerous to count and yet when I hit bottom there are strong arms which lift me out of my pit and whisper, “you are more than a conquerer oh you of little faith.”
The work I do as a counselor is riddled with this truth. There are ways in which I sit across from dear human beings wrestling with the way things are and I can answer back, “Yes, but it is also written.” To proceed with “Oh no, It’s not this way,” would be to lie. That is not comfort. Comfort is found in the grey. In the both-and.
Healthy thinking leads to healthy living. Truth is never easy. We will have to face our darkness and our light at the same time. We will have to hold the tension of suffering and grace. Of illness and healing (although healing may not look the way we think it should.) We must admit we are proud or prejudice yet lean into the possibility that we can change. It’s not either-or, it’s both-and.
Successful counseling should acknowledge that you have come to the end of yourself but it is not ultimately an end. The end can also be the beginning of a new way, a new life, a new you. It is always darkest before the dawn.
It is also written, “there is hope.”