I've worked with gangs in Jamaica's Trenchtown and on the streets of Los Angeles. I've spent time in some of the world's poorest places, such as India, Boliva, Ghana and Asia, and seen Christians doing amazing things to work with communities to relieve poverty and bring transformation.
I can share stories of change from London where XLP works with almost 2,000 young people each week who are at risk of exclusion from school and from getting into gangs. I've met with some of the country's most high profile political leaders and consulted on a number of issues to speak up for the young people we work with.
As preachers we're good at telling these stories and they are often what people want to hear. I know when I listen to a speaker I want to be encouraged and inspired about the things that God does in our world. Those stories are important to tell and we need to hear from as many people as we can about the ways that we can see God at work. But sometimes we can hear other people's amazing stories and wonder why our lives don't match up, forgetting that this is never the full picture.
Pastor Steven Furtick says, "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." We look at preachers and think their life is great because they have these amazing stories to tell, forgetting they are just giving us their highlights because they want to inspire us. Their everyday lives probably aren't all that different from ours.
They still get sick, have bad days at work, wonder why their prayers haven't been answered, argue with their spouse, clean up after their kids and wrestle with doubts and insecurities. They have to do many of the same mundane daily activities that we do and struggle with problems and setbacks. But from the 20 minutes of their lives that we hear about in their talks, we think they simply go from one glorious God-encounter to another.
I know I feel challenged to make sure my talks are now more balanced, so that people also hear stories that highlight our common humanity. That's partly why I wrote my latest book, When Faith Gets Shaken. I wanted to tell people a bit about what's been going on in my life behind the scenes while some of the other stuff that I've written about was happening. Not because I think my life is all that interesting, but because God has taken me on a journey that I think many others are on too. While I've seen God doing amazing things in London and all around the world, my faith has been shaken to the core by the pain and suffering in my own life and in the lives of those I love.
As I have shared my struggles and some of God's whispers with people I've met who are suffering and struggling, they have seemed to strike a chord. So my hope and prayer is that they will do the same for you. There is something powerful in us all being honest about where we're at and the things we find difficult.
I've read many books and heard many talks where people have spoken about how amazing it is to come out the other side of suffering and see with hindsight all the wonderful things that God was doing, but I wanted to write while I was still in the process of dealing with the pain. Because the truth is I'm still grappling with these issues. I'm still trying to figure out where God is and what he's doing.
It feels incredibly vulnerable to be so honest about my doubts, struggles and anxieties but my hope and prayer is that as I let people see the 'behind-the-scenes' of my life it will help them to know they are not alone in their struggles. We all have times when it feels like things are falling apart, but none of us has to be in that place alone.