“Surely He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:4)
“Do you want to be made whole?” This is a question that Jesus asked a man with a physical problem (see John 5:6), but of course we know that Jesus can do so much more than provide physical healing. He can work wonders on the inside of us that bring about healing and transformation of the soul.
But instead of genuine, Christ-generated transformation and wholeness, what we often find in the church today is people who are struggling to conform to a certain outward image or standard of behavior. Feeling pressure from all around (preachers, leaders, others in the church, and even themselves) to appear as if they have their lives together, they end up projecting an outward image of goodness, wellness and wholeness – while sadly knowing deep down that all they are doing is faking it. Their outward show doesn't truly reflect what's going on deep inside their soul. On the inside, they continually feel guilt and shame because they're not experiencing genuine healing and transformation, but rather are remaining the same or even getting worse. They aren't experiencing wholeness.
Why is this? Why is there a lack of real, genuine transformation in the body of Christ? Is it because there's not enough teaching and preaching about how to change and how to live godly lives? Is it because people aren't trying or don't want to change? Could I dare you to concede, along with me, that the reason is possibly because the majority of what is being taught in the church today is focused on outward change and on trying to live godly lives, with little or no attention paid to the only real thing that can bring about authentic transformation in a person's life – the actual, real living Spirit of God who is alive in us and always longs for us to allow Him to enter into our suffering, shame and pain with us so He can help us and heal us?
Christ Himself is the only one who can truly transform us. To get a glimpse into how He interacts with us and heals our hurts, look at how He designed us – the members of His body – to interact with each other:
“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part... If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.” (From 1 Cor 12:25-26, The Message).
We've been designed as a body to be deeply involved with one another, just as Christ deeply involves Himself with us. True, vibrant life happens when we allow Jesus, who is always in us and with us, to suffer with us and rejoice with us. Just as we are able to enter into the hurt and suffering of one another, and to take part in the healing process of one another, so also is God all the more capable – and willing and eager – to enter into our hurt and suffering with us so He can heal and transform us as only He can.
People really do want to change. People really do desire genuine transformation to take place in them. People really do know that they're not living up to their full potential and they really do want to rise above the mediocre lives that they seem to be trapped in. People really do want to be made whole. But many have become complacent or despondent, or have given up because they've found the struggle to change to be too difficult and futile. This is where we can begin see the vital difference between “trying to change” and transformation that comes only by the life of Christ in us.
With a performance focus, even if we're able to positively change our behavior and put on a polished outward appearance, it doesn't necessarily mean that any transformation has actually taken place on the inside. People can put on a good show, and if they aren't allowed the freedom to experience the reality of true transformation and healing on the inside, they will continue to live fake, masked, untransformed lives. The church talks constantly about how Christ can transform us, but the continual focus on our performance actually blocks Christ out and makes it very difficult for any transformation process to actually take place.
What if people could truly believe that there really is hope for them to change! What if they were shown that there really is a transforming power alive and at work in them, and not just a set of rules or principles to keep on struggling to try to live by? Can you imagine them breaking out of the rut of complacency, despondency and hopelessness and truly beginning to look to and trust the healing, sanctifying, comforting, affirming, transforming life of Christ in them? What an amazing change in their experience it would be if they were able to get off of the tiresome and fruitless treadmill of self-powered attempts at change, and turn instead to trusting and depending upon God Himself, who works faithfully and without condemnation to transform their lives over time with great care and patience.
Will we open up our souls and allow Him to truly enter into our suffering (and shame and guilt and hurt and stress and sickness and wills and emotions) so that He Himself can truly heal and transform us from the inside out and not according to mere outward actions and appearances? Will we allow others the freedom to do the same? Christ is a living reality, and He wants His life in us to be real to us. He Himself has come to set us free and to make us whole.