One of the most glorious truths of Christianity is the sufficiency of Scripture. God has spoken to us through His Word, and – amazingly – it provides us with everything we need to know God, have relationship with Him, and live a life of faithful obedience. Regardless of our age or race or gender, the Bible is sufficient. Regardless of our background or experiences, the Bible is sufficient. And regardless of our current circumstances and situations, the Bible is sufficient.
Here is the problem, though: we who are reading the Bible often often gravitate toward the parts that resonate more easily and deeply with our own personality and preference and observations. If we are generally “happy” or “bubbly”, we will most often gravitate toward parts of the Bible that speak of joy and singing and “positive” things. Even more, we will most often point others to those passages. On the other hand, if we are generally more “melancholy” or “introspective”, we will gravitate toward the parts of the Bible that speak of sadness and struggle and lament. Likewise, we will point others in that same direction.
But why is that a problem? It does not have to be if we are careful. Here is the thing we must remember, however: the Bible is very much a “symphony” of truth – you need all the “notes” or you will find the tune incomplete. Even worse, you will give others less than what God has provided and quite possible lead them to believe the Bible is insufficient for their situation when nothing could be farther from the truth.
Here is an example of what I mean. American Christianity is often very triumphalist. When we speak of our churches, things are “awesome” and “amazing”. God is “really moving”, and we are seeing “lives changed” and “people saved”. Are these statements untrue? Most likely not – in the vast majority if churches, God is moving and changing people’s lives and drawing people to Himself. Hallelujah! However, if this is the only way we know how to speak about God and His work, we will (unintentionally) marginalize and discourage the saint who is struggling to see God at work – the saint who is caring for a loved one in the midst of a long-term, terminal illness, the saint who is battling a long-term illness themselves, the saint who has just miscarried or lost a spouse or a close friend or family member, the single women who longs to be married, the couple who cannot have a baby, or any number of others in our midst who are suffering in thousands of different ways.
We need to remember the the same Bible that contains Psalm 150 (“Praise the Lord!”) also contains Psalm 13 (“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”). We need to remember that the same Bible that speaks of Peter being delivered from prison (Acts 12) also speaks of Stephen being stoned to death (Acts 7). We need to remember that – by faith – God’s people “conquered kingdoms…stopped the mouths of lions…escaped the edge of the sword…and put foreign armies to flight” (Heb. 11:33-34) while others – by faith – “suffered mocking and flogging…were stoned…sawn in two…and were destitute, afflicted, and mistreated” (Heb. 11:36-37). This world has suffering, and we need to have room in our hearts and lives for people to mourn and weep and deal with their sadness and dejection. God does not always promise to keep us from the valley of the shadow of death – rather, He promises to walk through it with us. So take some time to sit with Job as he wrestles…and notice that God lets him wrestle for a long time. Take some time to sit with the Psalmist as he laments and cries out to God…and notice how often that happens in the Psalms. Take some time to consider how often Paul talks about suffering…and notice how explicit he is about the fact that everyone will suffer sometime and somehow. Do not let those “notes in a minor key” get lost.
On the other hand, we do not need to lose the notes of triumph found in the song either. Perhaps – in response to the triumphalist tendency I just mentioned – you are tempted to focus so much on the difficulty and trouble of your life that you end up ignoring the promises of hope that flood the pages of Scripture…or effectively acting as if they are not present. Yet, they are – the Bible actually is full of promises and hope. The “minor” notes are mixed in with notes of deep and abiding comfort as well. The fact that so many Christians quote it – sometimes even in a misguided, out-of-context fashion – does not make Romans 8:28-29 any less true: God works all things together for the good of His people…so that they are conformed to the image of Christ. Regardless of how deep our pain and suffering, we cannot forget the promise of God Himself that His grace is sufficient for us (2 Cor. 12:9). We must remember that our current affliction is preparing for us “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Even though we must suffer along the way, we are joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), and one day God will wipe away every tear and death and pain will be no more (Rev. 21:4). Without a doubt, this life has much that simply must be “endured”, but there is also the promise that the one who endures to the end will be saved (Matt. 10:22).
These things are true – whether we “feel” them or not. In the midst of our pain and suffering – as well as the pain and suffering of others – we must remember the promises. And more than simply remembering them, we must fight to believe them.
At the end of the day, the Bible truly is sufficient. It gives us everything we need and provides every truth our hearts need. Soak yourself in the Bible. Do not neglect certain passages or themes because they feel “uncomfortable” or “unnatural” to you. Listen to God’s voice and delight in the symphony – with every single note that God has provided. Take in the whole counsel of God – it is deep enough to carry you through your darkest valley and high enough to carry you over your highest mountaintop.