If you’re involved in any sort of Christian ministry, you’ve probably got a steady stream of “projects” coming across your desk. Births, deaths, engagements, marriages, family problems, relationship issues, etc. And if you’ve been at it for any length of time, you’ve probably developed an approach to each of these that allows you to move it from the “inbox” to the “outbox” fairly easily.

But what happens when the questions get harder and the problems get bigger? What happens when you don’t know what to say or do? When your advisers don’t know what to say or do?

Such projects too easily end up in the “too hard” box. It’s not that we don’t want to help. We usually do. It’s just that it’s, well, too hard.

The “too hard” box

Let’s have a look at a typical “too hard” box. As we pull out the stack and sift through the stories, we’re likely to see lives broken and distorted in areas such as mental illness, gender and sexuality, and abuse. Allow me to outline some of these situations in more detail and while I do, consider how many of these would end up in your “too hard” box.

Mental illness
Bipolar disorders
Personality disorders
Anxiety disorders

Gender and sexuality
Gender confusion and identity issues
Sexual attraction (homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, asexual)
Sexual perversion (homosexuality, incest, necrophilia, bestiality, pedophilia)


Depending on who you are and how you grew up, some of these things may be old-hat to you. You can guide a soul through these issues from Scripture in ways that lead to hope and healing. For others, you don’t even know what some of these are. Which makes it hard. Potentially too hard. And we start eyeing the “too hard” box.

Filling up the “too hard” box

What could motivate people who have dedicated their lives to helping people to take soul-crushing problems and toss them into the “too hard” box like an old phone bill?

Often we make the toss out of…

He’s always so down!
That is so gross!
I’m not befriending some girly boy!

You must have chosen to be like this.
You don’t want to change.
You must be in sin.
You must not really be saved.

I would never do something like that.
I know I’m a sinner, but at least I’m not like that!
My sin is attractive. Yours is unattractive.

How can I help someone like this?
What if it goes wrong?
What if she becomes attracted to me?
I’ll look stupid.

I’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist and carry on as if it didn’t.
If I ignore it, maybe it will go away.
She’s such a lovely Christian… I’m sure she’s just exaggerating the problem.

I don’t know what to say.
How can I help someone with such a complex problem?
I don’t know anything about this!
You just have to read the Bible and pray more.

In reality, it’s usually a combination of several of these or other factors.


Tossing someone in the “too hard” box is easier than the alternatives. It gets the problem off my desk and, if I can convince myself of the rationale, off my conscience. But what about the soul I’ve just stamped “TOO HARD”? This will be the topic of my next post in this series.

Grace to you.

this is part 1 of 4 in the series
Helping people in the too hard box

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.


  1. oneeye 16 September, 2014 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Seems like most everything these days is “too hard” for the pastors. Narcissistic lovers of money. False shepards and false teachers will run from problems. Do as I say,not as I do. You get the idea. Are most of these leaders truly God called in these last days?? The evidence speaks for itself. Just read the news. Criticize them at your own risk.

  2. Liz 24 October, 2014 at 4:06 pm - Reply


    “Too hard” is called Life. Romans 5:8. We’re all sinners, some just perceive some sins to be harder to deal with than others.

    I have a mental health “disorder”. It’s real life to me. You cannot throw me the “don’t be anxious” verse at me, dust your hands and say “well, she isn’t being obedient” or whatever.

    Nothing is too hard for Jesus.

    I think the problem with this post to me is that the undershepherd (pastor little p) is usurping the role of the Lord Jesus Christ (Senior Pastor/Chief Shepherd).

    We all have sins we’re dealing with. I would say the lower case p pastor’s sins are just as important as someone dealing with gluttony (how many fat pastors do you see today?)

    Is gluttony worse than anorexia?

    I understand what you’re saying. I have struggled with difficult friends in the past who’ve had abusive backgrounds and therefore have emotional issues.

    It took a while for God to show me my own sinful behaviours and to realise that they are all not so different than I am.

    Some of us are just able to hide our sins better.

    On a Sunday, that is. :-)

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