Befriend, Chapter 4: Befriend Prodigals and Pharisees & Chapter 5: Befriend the Wrecked and the Restless
This week we are discussing chapters 4 & 5 of our bookclub book, Befriend, by Scott Sauls. Even if you haven’t read the material or didn’t participate last week, please don’t hesitate to share your heart! This is how it works: I’ll post some initial thoughts and recap some of Saul’s points, but then I will ask the questions in the comments section. If you see a question you want to answer, simply reply to the question. And if you want to reply to someone else’s comment, please do! Or, if you want to ask your own question or start a new talking point, just create an original comment that isn’t a reply to anyone else’s. Make sure you check back throughout the week in case someone has posted on your comment or asked you a question.
Ground rules: This is meant to be an encouraging, redemptive conversation. Please communicate with kindness and grace.
As I’ve been reading Befriend, I really loved how well these two chapters complement each other. Chapter 4: Befriend Prodigals and Pharisees really rubbed me the wrong way. In a good way! The modern pharisee is probably the type of person I struggle with the most, likely because I was one for sooooooo many years. I don’t like to be reminded of who I was before tasting God’s grace—prideful, self righteous, inward focused, fearful of failure. The Older Brother through and through. Not that I’m not still these things, but now that I have encountered Grace, I am free from trying to save myself and impress God. So when I read this chapter, I really just wanted to skip over it. I find befriending the heroin addict cursing in the church nursery much easier than befriending the pharisee.
And then Chapter 5: Befriend the Wrecked and the Restless talks about befriending those who are inwardly broken. Sauls tells two stories of pastors who committed suicide in the midst of depression and how he himself has suffered from paralyzing anxiety and depression. He sheds light into the purpose God has in this kind of suffering: Suffering has a way of equipping us to be the best expressions of God’s compassion and grace. It has a way of equipping us to love and lead in ways that are helpful and not harmful. A healer who has not been wounded is extremely limited in her or his ability to heal. As I read through his own testimony of hope springing from mental illness when a congregant told him that he decided to trust Sauls when Sauls told the church he has struggled with anxiety and depression and had been seeing a therapist for years, it hit me: Pharisees are the wrecked and the restless who have no safe place to go. They are hiding in their hurt and shame.
All those years I lived as a pharisee, I had so much shame and pain buried deep inside my heart. But I was afraid of rejection if I told anyone. I was afraid that I would be tossed aside and discarded. So I started working really hard to convinced everyone that I had it all together and that I had all the answers. This wrecked and restless girl turned into a big, fat pharisee. If I had been befriended by a safe person who knew how to pursue me in my shame, maybe I would never have taken that pharisee road.
Anxiety and depression have been God’s way of reminding me that I don’t have to be awesome. He has not called me to be influential or spoken well of and liked or a celebrity who is famous like a rock star. He has foremost called me to be loved, to be receptive to his love, and to find my rest in his love. He has called me to remember that because of Jesus, I already have a name. I will be remembered and celebrated and sung over even after I am long gone, because he is my God and I am his person. He is my Father and I am his son, and on that day into eternity, there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain.