The Bible’s answer to the human struggle

Ed Welch » Biblical Theology Worldviews Heart Counseling

The Bible’s answer to the human struggle

You might not think the Bible says anything about your struggles. But if you dig deeper, you may find that the Bible actually knows you better than you know yourself.

I recently had the privilege of teaching part of a ReTrain in-residence week. It was quite a treat. I prayed that I would be clear, edifying, and capture both the truth of Scripture and the ethos in which God has given us that truth. I also prayed that we would mutually sharpen one another (Prov. 27:17). Here is just one way I was sharpened.

Scripture gives confidence to the doubters

I can have my times of doubt. Since we worship the invisible God, and since he has never made a direct visitation to any of my senses of which I am aware, there are times I can wonder: Is this real? Is Scripture true?

Those times of doubt are certainly more abbreviated than they once were, but they haven’t disappeared, and, in some ways, I am glad they haven’t.

No human being can invent Scripture.

The prominent way these doubts are alleviated is through Scripture. As a counselor, I am aware of secular therapies and ways of understanding people. But when Scripture comes along with unrivaled breadth and depth in its understanding of the human condition, I witness again how Scripture reveals the mind of our God and Creator, who designed us and is savvy to how we break down and are built up.

In other words, no human being can invent Scripture. If we did, Scripture would sound like a curious blend of Sigmund Freud, self-help, and Babylonian myths, with a dash of Plato—which it does not.

Scripture says plenty

One way to get into Scripture is with a question. Instead of, “I want to learn something today from my devotions,” enter Scripture through the universal experience of low self-esteem (e.g., “I am a failure, a loser,” “I don’t fit in,” “Everyone is better than me”). Ask the question, “What do you think about me, and why do I care so much?” These experiences resonate with almost every person in every culture.

Scripture reveals the mind of our God and Creator, who designed us and is savvy to how we break down and are built up.

If these experiences are common to us all, we certainly hope Scripture says plenty. At first glance, however, we get nothing. The phrase “self-esteem” and the question about people’s opinions do not appear in Scripture. Then we are left with a decision. Do we look somewhere else for good leads, or do we persevere with Scripture until it yields some riches?

Scripture has more

So we start digging into Scripture. We can do this by being less dependent on a word (self-esteem) and listen for how Scripture identifies and shapes the underlying experience—which might be identified as being controlled by other people, fearing other people, putting our hope in others, shame, fear of man, and other phrases. All of these bring the experience of low self-esteem onto Scripture’s turf. Then we follow the storyline of Scripture.

It turns out that “don’t look at me” and a commitment to cover up our inadequacy is one of the first consequences of humanity’s descent into sin. From there, the biblical story accumulates more and more examples until it reaches its zenith—when the Apostle Peter is controlled by words of a servant girl while standing around a fire. The sheer abundance of Scripture’s teaching is enough to alleviate some spiritual doubts.

Scripture’s two perspectives

In short, Scripture looks at this human struggle from two perspectives. One is that we think too highly of ourselves. We want to be great and rest in our resumes. When we see our limitations and failures, we are crushed. Repentance is key to the way out as we repent our desires down to size. When we repent, we still care about the opinions of others, but we are not controlled by them.

A commitment to cover up our inadequacy is one of the first consequences of humanity’s descent into sin.

Or, from another perspective, we can feel miserable because we think too low of ourselves. Shame is always knocking, especially shame from having been sinned against by other people. From this starting point, Scripture unfolds a beautiful story that culminates in Jesus pursuing shame, taking our shame, and attaching us to himself so we participate in his great honor.

Surprise and hope

Both perspectives yield surprises and hope, and that is how they encourage our confidence. “Surprises” means that we didn’t anticipate Scripture’s approach, but, once considered, it makes sense to our souls. “Hope” means that there is a way out of this dilemma. We don’t have to simply manage these struggles and keep them temporarily at bay, but we can grow in ways that those struggles no longer own us.

During my time teaching at ReTrain, I was led in repentance for thinking way too highly of myself, and I was lifted up when shame threatened to overtake me. But I was especially encouraged by how God really knows the human condition, and, when we dig into Scripture, it has his Divine fingerprints all over it.

Scripture has wisdom that we could never discover in ourselves, yet that wisdom is accessible to anyone who seeks Jesus.


Check out Dr. Ed Welch's Shame Interrupted for more on how Jesus takes away our shame and sets us free in him


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