One of these things is not like the others, right? But before we get to that, it’s confession time—I’m not a NASCAR fan. To be fair, I have great respect for the ability to drive a car with precision at ungodly speeds, but I can’t seem to muster any fandom for the sport. Still, I believe NASCAR can teach us something about counseling.
It’s easy for our attention to be on the drivers, but they can only do what the car allows them to do. If the car doesn’t function at a high level, they can’t win. And the entire team is vital for success, especially the indispensable pit crew as they make sure the car runs smoothly during the race.
Pastors and counselors perform a similar function in the lives of struggling and suffering saints. When people aren’t living in healthy ways, pastors and counselors are people-helpers; they help diagnose problems and offer solutions to promote health and faithfulness to God.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
Ultimately, the point of having a finely tuned race car is to win. If the car is in great shape but sits in the garage or idles in pit row, all the fine-tuning work is for nothing. But how does this relate to counseling and the mission of God? As a pastor and counselor, my goal is not to help Christians live in healthy ways primarily for the sake of their own health. Just as a race car is built and maintained in order to race, a Christian is created in the image of Jesus to fulfill the mission of God. Our individual health serves a greater purpose. Just as a race car is built and maintained in order to race, a Christian is created in the image of Jesus to fulfill the mission of God. Click To Tweet
Struggles, however, can divert us from the priorities of God’s kingdom and lead us into self-focused thinking and living. It’s easy for people to collapse in on themselves when things are hard. My goal as a counselor is to help bring about health through service to God and neighbor. On many occasions, I’ve witnessed the Lord bring comfort and healing to hurting people as they love and care for others.
We should always pursue physical, mental, and spiritual health in light of God’s purposes for our life. Paul tells us, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
In other words, we exist for the mission of God. Jesus has created and commissioned us to make disciples—to spread the hope of the gospel to every corner of the earth. If I’m not engaged in the mission of God, I’m not healthy, regardless of how I feel. If I’m “healthy” but not actively participating in the advancement of God’s kingdom, then I’m like a well-tuned race car idling in pit row.If I’m “healthy” but not actively participating in the advancement of God’s kingdom, then I’m like a well-tuned race car idling in pit row. Click To Tweet
A Different Kind of Race
The language of competition is no stranger to the New Testament (1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 12:1), so it’s not surprising we can find helpful parallels to the Christian life in NASCAR and other competitive events. And while analogies can be helpful, they all break down at some point. For example, a NASCAR driver can’t be successful with a sluggish or damaged vehicle. I’m grateful we run a different race with a different standard of success.
At times, the pressure in our tires feels low or we feel we’re running on fumes. Sometimes we’re faced with situations that feel like driving with a clouded windshield—we can’t quite see the way we would like to see. In seasons of weakness, we must remember that God has a great purpose for us. We’re useful to God when we’re weak. We can be victorious in the Lord when we feel low. I’m thankful that when I get out of bed in the morning, regardless of how I feel, my labor for the Lord is never in vain (1 Cor. 15:58) because my righteousness is found in Christ.
The Checkered Flag of Faithfulness
Good people-helping, whether formal or informal, will always encourage sufferers to consider what faithfulness to God looks like amid hardship. Paul says that in the gospel, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Rom. 1:17). By faith, we participate in the mission of God and testify to the power of the gospel, even (and especially) in our weakness. Click To Tweet
Faithfulness to God is what the gospel produces. Therefore, we’re called to battle depression in faithfulness to God. This means that the greatest good for someone battling depression isn’t simply that they would not feel depressed. Rather, the greatest good for someone battling depression is that they would love God and those around them amid their depression—not only as an expression of their faith but also as a way to push back against the kingdom of darkness that hovers over this world.
By faith, we participate in the mission of God and testify to the power of the gospel, even (and especially) in our weakness. This applies to anxiety, conflict, addiction, and every other form of sin and suffering that burdens us in this life.
Praise God that weakness doesn’t disqualify us from the race he calls us to run. Praise God for the empowerment of his Spirit enabling us to finish the race, keep the faith, and lay hold of the crown of righteousness that the Lord will award all those who have loved his appearing (2 Tim. 4:7). May you run in such a way today.