Sharing The Crisis

A lady I've been counselling for the past few months is suffering from acute alcoholism. I've been amazed that she believes that others don't know she's an alcoholic. Tragically it is most often everyone else who knows this before the actual sufferer is forced to acknowledge it.

Part of it, I suppose, is denial. But the other part is our determination to be self-sufficient and strong. No one wants to expose their weaknesses to others and seek help. Yet, paradoxically, when we do, we often find not only a new source of strength, but a different kind of strength as well.

St Paul had a medical condition. We don't really know exactly what it was. The old authorised version referred to it as a 'thorn in the flesh.' More modern translations have 'a painful wound to my pride.' But whatever it was it greatly troubled him. As he wrote 'Three times I begged the Lord to rid me of it.' Then he went on to say he heard the response 'My grace is all you need; power comes to its full strength in weakness.'

And that is the experience not just of Paul but I believe of all people of faith. Sometimes it is when we feel drained and at the end of our tether, and all we can do is hold up empty hands with a feeling of failure, that we are most conscious of divine grace.

And it's interesting that groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, not only emphasise the need for ruthless honesty before others afflicted in the same way, and the need for mutual support, but the acknowledgement of a power beyond our own.

It would be difficult to imagine anyone going through life without a personal crisis of some kind or other. Even clergy who deal with so many difficult personal issues for people can at times pick-up and carry those sorrows. And when that happens, it is essential they should seek help through their spiritual advisers or other professional avenues. The leadership role of clergy isn't only about being rock-like: it also means acknowledging our shared human weakness.

There's a lovely term called 'the emergency Christian.' These are people who only turn to God when things are difficult. And some have more emergencies than others.

Should you have a need or be in a crisis, don't be afraid to speak with someone you trust. Just sharing your vulnerability could be the change in life you need most.


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