by Jared Musgrove
We are so hurried. Busy-ness is truly the ultimate virtue of the age. Henri Nouwen phrased it this way, “In many people’s lives, there is a nearly diabolical chain in which their anxieties grow according to their success.” Such 21st Century souls demand that the truth be stated in an elevator conversation, because we are moving on to the next projected “success”. But this attitude misses the biblically human truth that transformation by the truth takes time, examination, and community.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ collection of sermons on the matter of Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures has always been a personal friend to me, but I’ve begun to look at it all over again as a community resource when I consider our small groups and the transformation we all pray happens in them. The way to go about this will be both the individual being led by the Lord into holy introspection and then to processing in the community of God’s people in a smaller group.
“We are meant to examine ourselves periodically, but if we are always doing it, always, as it were, putting our soul on a plate and dissecting it, that is introspection. And if we were always talking to people about ourselves and our problems and troubles, and if we are forever going to them with that kind of frown and saying: I am in great difficulty – it probably means that we are all the time centered upon ourselves. That is introspection, and that in turn leads to the condition known as morbidity.”
Maybe you’ve had that member in your small group. Maybe you even recognize yourself in the above paragraph. We are designed to spend times of solitude with God, to read His Word, to hear from Him, to pray, and commune with Him. Jesus, our Master of Model of living, did just this. And so too should we encourage our small group members to cultivate a life with God outside of our community time.
But our life with God cannot stay in solitude. That’s the tricky part. There are introverts and extroverts and we approach solitude differently. Lloyd-Jones is helpful here:
“We have to watch our strength and we have to watch our weakness. The essence of wisdom is to realize this fundamental thing about ourselves. If I am naturally an introvert I must always be careful about it, and I must warn myself against it lest unconsciously I slip into a condition of morbidity. The extrovert must in the same way know himself and be on his guard against the temptations peculiar to his nature.”
But we can’t know ourselves or God fully if we try to do so apart from the community of saints He has given us. This is what we do in small groups. We help each other process our introspection and remind one another of the gospel’s application in both our solitude and our solidarity.