Several months ago a woman in my small group made an interesting comment. Essentially, she said that before she was a Christian her life had been difficult but now that she is a Christian everything is going smoothly for her. She talked about how she had been trying to convince her mother to start following Christ so her life would be simpler and she would have fewer problems.
I guess there is a small nugget of truth in that, as there is in many false teachings that are easy to believe. After all, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
We have the ability to cast our cares and our burdens on Jesus. And the lightening that follows can truly change a life. I have been praying for some time that Christ would help me carry the burden of infertility, and I have recently written of the peace I have today that I believe is completely from God. But that peace doesn’t change my circumstances. It affects my attitude and my daily posture, but it isn’t a complete solution to my problem. I still long to be a mother.
I would submit that this view seems fine until something goes wrong. Different people have different tolerances for what that means. But if you believe that as long as you love the Lord things will go smoothly for you, what must you think as soon as the road becomes bumpy and difficult to travel? If the first premise is correct, then what follows from hardship?
Someone failed. Maybe you failed to love God enough. What follows is a quick slide into a works-based salvation, where your right standing with God is dependent on your own actions. And what we will find if right standing is dependent on us is that we are not good enough for God. We cannot be good enough for God.
Alternatively, maybe God has failed to provide for you. Maybe you question whether the Word is true when it says that God will “work all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Maybe you start to wonder if God has abandoned you or left your side. Maybe you doubt his leadership in your life or his ability to bless you.
If you believe your Christian walk includes a promise that everything will go smoothly all the time, something’s got to give when hardship finds you. And hardship will probably find you. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).
There are two main directions hardship can push us: away from God or closer to him. In hardship, we can choose to put our faith in a God who sees the whole picture and knows the whole plan. We can choose to trust him completely even when our difficulty and pain doesn’t make sense to us. We can choose to believe him despite the difficulty inherent in our circumstance.
Or we can choose to give up on him. We can decide we don’t trust him. We can feel betrayed, like we have been taken where we didn’t want to go and put in places we didn’t think we’d be in despite, or perhaps even because of, God. We can decide God is not bigger than our problems. Or that he doesn’t actually care. Or that he’s not actually present in our lives.
And if you start with the premise that Christian faith makes life easy, you’re setting yourself up to fall into that second category. You believe, even if you don’t articulate it, that when you face hardship, someone must have failed. And if God fails you, is it worth it to believe in him? And if you’ve failed God, can you ever dig yourself out of the hole you’re in?
If you thought the Christian walk would be an easy one and you’re finding it’s not—take heart. God is working all things—even bad things—for our good. He promises to do that. But he does not promise that life will be easy. That’s not in the book. And it’s okay to be upset about what we don’t understand. It’s okay to cry out to the Lord. He’s a big God. He can take it.
Not only that, but he knows your pain. He cares about you. He loves you. And he is always there for you.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8