Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to write on “Issues in the Church” that either aren’t talked about, ignored entirely, or that we want to contribute to the discussion on. Our goal with this series is to help our readers think through these issues from a biblical worldview with lots of practical gospel-application.
- Read the rest of the series here.
Brokenness is exhausting. I say that not as a counselor, but as a human being. I know personally the energy-draining nature of living in a broken world as a broken person. There are desires I wish I did not have, temptations I wish I did not experience, and daily frustrations I wish I did not endure. This brokenness could lead to despair, but I am learning how to persevere in the gospel. [bctt tweet=”The hope of the Gospel leads to patience with an unresolved heart.” username=”servantsofgrace”]
It was Wesley Hill who first led me to phrase. In his theological memoir Washed and Waiting, Hill writes about his experience as a Christian with a same-sex attraction. He longed to see his attractions changed and went through counseling and therapy to see that transformation realized, but to no avail. As a same-sex attracted man holding to a traditional Christian ethic on sexuality Hill recognizes the many frustrations that lay before him. He will have to constantly say no to a deep longing he has, he will likely never marry or have children, and will struggle with a general loneliness for the rest of his life. These are hard truths to accept, and they could lead one to despair. In Hill’s case, however, he has learned to find hope in the gospel story and to be patient with an unresolved heart. He writes:
So much of my life as a homosexual Christian…has simply been learning how to wait, to be patient, to endure, to bear up under an unwelcome burden for the long haul. Taped onto my desk where I write is a small sheet of paper with a quote from the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart.” Having patience with your own weaknesses is, I think, something of what Paul was commending when he described the tension of living on this side of wholeness. When God acts climatically to reclaim the world and raise our dead bodies from the grave, there will be no more homosexuality. But until then, we hope for what we do not see. (Washed and Waiting, 50)
I was so encouraged by Hill’s memoir. Neither Hill, nor I, would condone homosexuality, nor see same-sex attraction as part of God’s good design. It is a part of the curse of sin, the brokenness of our world. It is part of what he longs to see transformed, but at the moment, he continues to wait for that transformation. He struggles but he perseveres. He aches and longs, but he has hope. We all struggle like this. We all feel the weight of living in a broken world, as a broken people. But we may yet learn to have patience in our enduring struggle. The Gospel helps us to learn this kind of patience in several specific ways.
The Gospel reminds me that feeling my brokenness is part of my sanctification. The burden of being broken and living in a broken world increases as I come into a closer relationship with the Lord. Before I was a Christian, and certainly when I was yet still immature in my faith, these were not heavy loads. Each groan now is seen as faith-building. For Paul tells us that the testing of our faith produces endurance, character, and hope (Rom. 5:1-5), and James echoes these same sentiments (James. 1:2-4). My frustrations, temptations, and inordinate desires give me a chance to say no to ungodliness and experience greater growth.
The Gospel reminds me that the Spirit is at work in me. Belief in the saving work of Jesus Christ gives to me more than just the hope of heaven; it grants me also the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is the one who helps me fight sin and temptation. Through the Spirit I am able to “put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Rom. 8:13). Through the Spirit, I am able to practice self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). By the Spirit, I am being sanctified in holiness (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13). I am not alone in this struggle and frustration. The Spirit of God is working in me, so I can learn to be patient as I face each temptation and challenge. God assures me that no temptation can overpower me (1 Cor. 10:13), and such is possible because of the Spirit of God at work.
The Gospel reminds me of God’s great love for me. One of the most significant contributions of the Gospel is the reminder of God’s love. Even when I succumb to my temptations, when I fail and make a mess God’s love remains on me. I am learning to be patient with my unresolved heart because ultimately it is not the dedication of my heart that guarantees God’s love, but His love which guarantees the resolution to my heart’s problems. Paul asks a brilliant rhetorical question when he writes to the Romans, saying: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). The cross encourages me to be patient. God’s love demonstrated there gives me the confidence and hope that He cares for these temptations and burdens too. It encourages me that when I fail I don’t have to give up. His love will spur me on in plodding obedience.
The Gospel reminds me that there will one day be a resolution. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” the apostle says (Phil. 1:6). There is a Day coming where I will no longer face these inordinate desires when they will be brought to an end. The Gospel points to a day beyond the sufferings of this present age, a time of glory that is not worth comparing to this day’s struggle (Rom. 8:18). I can be patient because the struggle is not all there is.
We all have an unresolved heart. There are temptations that we long to be rid of, and to see fade. God does not promise us the absences temptation in this life. He does not guarantee a resolution to all our inordinate desires. Instead, He gives us the gospel and grace, grace sufficient to meet our needs in the temptation (1 Cor. 12:7-9). Be patient with an unresolved heart because the Gospel is at work in your life and will continue until the day of full glorification.