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It is not ideal. The experience of feeling exposed, attacked, fragile, breakable, or more adequately put—vulnerable. Vulnerability is not among the traits that my five-year-old lists when he describes what he wants to be when he grows up. In fact, they are among the traits I, as a grown adult, try to avoid daily. I imagine you are not that different. Who wakes up in the morning saying, “I cannot wait to be threatened by the immense burden of carrying on with the day-to-day activities that the Lord plans for me?” That is unless you are James when he writes, “Count it all joy my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2) Really? What about the persecution of sitting at Chick-fil-A for an extra five minutes because they forgot the cheese on my Chicken Sandwich? Or the elderly lady dragging a cart full of plants across the Lowes parking lot on a Saturday morning who surely knows that I have a limited window of time to get back to the house to mow the grass before we go to the zoo at 11. I admit, these are ludicrous examples, but I would be lying if the most trivial situations didn’t expose my vulnerability—and I guess you would be, too. 

On a more serious note, what about when someone I love comes down with a life-threatening illness? Or when a spouse uncovers a multi-year affair? What about a victim of abuse seeing their abuser at church for the first time in ten years? My point is that vulnerability is a vast category with many faces, none of which we like to spend time with.

Paul seems to pile on when he quotes Psalm 44:22, saying that it is for God’s sake, “…we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” If we were to take a poll, how many Christians would understand that our proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ used to be a death sentence? When we say we are Christians, we are putting a target on our backs. That really puts the long line at Chickfila and the sweet green thumb in the Lowes parking lot in perspective. The reality is, as created, fallen human creatures, we are far more vulnerable than we think. 

So, how do we deal with this? Due to the Fall of man in Genesis 3, we are now under the constant siege of unpredictability, threats, and anxiety. We are born into it. When we brush up against these moments that expose us to this reality, there has to be the expectation that we will have feelings as a response to these threats. Usually, these feelings fall under three categories: despair, apathy, and anger. If you are a normal breathing person, no one ever wants to dwell in these categories. These emotions demand action. That action is always either a self-preserving action or a self-annihilating action. Self-persevering actions are taken by those who want to escape. Self-annihilating actions are taken by those who are tired of escaping and come to the conclusion that the only rational thing to do is to give up. Since self-preserving is our default human state, it will likely be the more frequently visited option. 

Chances are, you have been in one of these categories—and if you think that it doesn’t apply to you, I would say give it to the end of the day. Understanding that vulnerability is a naturally occurring consequence of the Fall of Man, our self-preserving actions act as an accelerant to the vulnerability rather than a quencher. This will likely lead us into further isolation, further darkness, and further despair. 

Now, dare I ask, what if there was an alternative? Even as I write that question, I, too, struggle with the platitude-like tone that comes with it. As I said before, if we claim to be Christians, we place a target on our backs. But there is also another claim we declare—Jesus is King. In John 10:10, Jesus says to his disciples, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus claims to be not only a King who rules but also a King who gives life. Our vulnerability will be exposed, yet the grace is that our vulnerability is not news to Jesus. For he himself is the most radical example of vulnerability. Hebrews 2:14-18 explains, 

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Jesus became the thing we fear most—vulnerable—to become what we need most—security. He became a fragile, normal, fleshy son of man to vanquish our vulnerabilities in death, only to rise again as an impenetrable stronghold of fortitude to not only give us life—but eternal life. He is not the Lord that makes us immune to the effects of the curse. He is the Lord that makes the vulnerability bearable. Going back to James 1, in the context of Christ being the Lord of his life, he understood that when he faced the vulnerable pressures of the world, that was not a moment for him to run into isolation, but rather have sweet communion with his Lord in the visceral anguish of the curse. 

Thus, when we face vulnerable moments in our lives, we have two options: We are vulnerable as a self-proclaimed god, or we are vulnerable with God. It will always be one of the two. When we self-preserve, isolate, and turn inward, we take on the role of a god as the fixer, the avenger, the judge, the indulger, and the savior. When we trust in the predictable truth of God’s word, we face our fragile vulnerability with a God who can do something about it. We acknowledge ourselves as the creature and God as the Creator. 

 

We are then left with three questions:

  1. Do you agree? 
    1. If yes, then Jesus represents the stronghold of fortitude for you when you are exposed and tempted to escape into self-preservation.
  2. Do you disagree? 
    1. If yes, then what is your alternative? This is a real question that demands a rational answer. 
  3. Do you find yourself facing vulnerable moments as a god or with God? Semantics matter. 

 

Now for a disclaimer: an article from a Christian counselor can only go so far. If you struggle with these questions and concepts, biblical counseling may be a great place to dig deeper. 

Braden holds a Master of Arts of Christian Counseling and a Master of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. He received a degree in Psychology from Mississippi State University with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy and is a member of the Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC). He is also a Certified Christian Trauma Care Provider—Level 1. For the past seven years, he and his wife Victoria have worked in counseling ministries, adult Christian education, and with Joni & Friends, a Christ-based ministry to the disabled. Through the Owen Center, Braden pursues a life-calling to serve Christ by cultivating the ministry of biblical counseling in the Auburn community.