Why I Don't Dislike or Mistrust Joel Osteen

Why I Don't Dislike or Mistrust Joel Osteen

I don’t know about you, but when I’m slogging through a boggy, dark valley (metaphorically speaking, as the prairies are rather flat and arid) the last thing I want to hear is someone telling me just to smile and things will get better. I certainly am not in the place to hear that maybe if I had more, better, stronger, and/or a correctly applied faith then I would not be in the mess I’m in. Even if the latter may possibly be the case, hearing those words at that point in time makes me want to bop that person in the nose. For often what we need in the dark valleys is for someone to simply support us, to offer a listening ear and a strong shoulder.

Too often as Christians, we have thought knowing and serving Jesus equals a trouble-free life. Or at least some of us have thought that, because I cannot be the only one. And I will confess to having stuck my foot in my mouth in appropriate fashion when others have experienced troubles due to this incorrect mindset.

And then I experienced some troubles. This led to me reading my Bible a little more closely, and finding verses like “. . . in this world you will have trials and sorrows . . .”, and “. . . count it all joy when you fall into various trials . . .”, and “.  . . you will be hated by all for My name’s sake . . .”.

Brace yourself . . . this is going to be hard.*

Oh. So this Christian life was going to be hard, rough, and tough. It was going to lead to a lot of sucky things, so maybe it was time to bring back the sackcloth and ashes so everyone could see just how bad it was going to get.

But then I read further, and discovered the above verses didn’t end in trouble. For I also found:

  • I am to be of good cheer, for Jesus has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
  • The testing of my faith produces patience. (James 1:2-4)
  • If I endure to the end, I will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)

Early in 2008 my husband had surgery to remove a growth. And shortly after that, seemingly despite our many prayers, he underwent chemotherapy, as the doctors could not say with certainty all the cancerous cells were gone from his body.

We cried. We struggled. I wondered why my faith didn’t “work”.

And one night as I was reading in the Book of Psalms, God answered me with this:

Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD. ~Psalm 40:3b (NLT)

It was somewhat cryptic and unclear. I didn’t understand what it meant. But I clung to it all the same. I chose to trust even though I did not understand.

This didn’t equal a trouble-free journey. There were days Jeff and I were frustrated and sniped at each other. But there were many pockets of joy, too. I saw my husband laughing and joking with the nurses in the chemotherapy ward. I met the nurse he nicknamed “Stabitha” for her inability to get his IV needle in on the first (or second) try. We would celebrate good days with a trip to our favourite coffee shop. We chose joy and hope over sorrow and despair. And we gained more compassion for others walking similar paths along the way.

Looking back on it now, I see how others were amazed at how my husband in particular journeyed through that year. I hope many did put more of their trust in the Lord as a result.

And the above experience is one of the reasons why I will not join in the chorus of voices claiming Joel Osteen is a fake, a man with incorrect theology who gives people false hope, who reduces God to a formula of “If you do X, God will do Y.” Because the man has spoken such things as this (all quotes are from Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living Out Your Full Potential):

  • “God never promised we wouldn’t have challenges. In fact, He said just the opposite.”
  • “That’s why it is important to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. In this world we will never arrive at a place where everything is perfect and we have no more challenges.” (emphasis added)
  • “Sustaining faith is what gets you through those dark nights of the soul when you don’t know where to go or what to do, and it seems you can’t last another day . . . but because of your faith in God, you do.”

He is not all happy-go-lucky, serving God will mean you have no more troubles, brothers and sisters in his teachings, for I would dare say further examination of his other books and sermons would yield similar examples.

Now granted, I do not personally know the man, know his heart, or every aspect of his theology. But there are two things I do know for certain:

  1. If there is anything dangerously off base with Joel Osteen’s teachings, God will deal with it, and He will probably show a bit more grace and mercy than we seem to do, too. James 3:1-2 does say teachers are held to a stricter judgment, after all, and that no one is perfect in all that they say, either.
  2. I have learned from experience how what we hear other people say isn’t necessarily what they mean.  Our worldviews, right or wrong, along with our experiences and any emotional baggage will affect how we see/hear/understand certain things.

Does this mean I think we should ignore wrong teachings and not correct anyone when they’re walking down a wrong path? No. But I think we need to be very careful in such situations, making sure we do truly have God’s mind on the matter. We also need to try to not allow our own experiences and circumstances, or our dislike of the style or mannerisms of the messenger, block out the truth that is being spoken.

Now I know people will still disagree with me on Joel Osteen. And they may even think I’m trying to belittle what they are currently going through or have gone through. That is truly not my intention. But if you’re going to voice any of that here, please be respectful and courteous; and remember – none of us have the corner market on truth or the understanding of God’s Word.

Thank you. :-)

*Photo Credit: Jon Tunnell ©2009 (Flickr via Creative Commons)

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