I read a blog earlier this week that highlights three phrases that Christians are quick to say that the author suggests that they really shouldn't say at all. Since the first phrase he highlights is a personal peeve of mine and an outright lie, reading this blog really got me thinking about more half truths and lies that Christians often believe and perpetuate. There are lies thrust upon the Christian church by the father of lies, because it's what he does, it's his job. And when we aren't careful, we can easily believe the lies and buy right into his falsehoods. I believe there are certain lies within the American church that are subtle and pervasive, and they are perpetuated by the culture and even other good well meaning Christians.
The lie I want to highlight is this:
If you follow Christ, life will be wonderful. Things will always go your way, and life will be sunshine, roses, and full of puppies and kittens.
It's a subtle lie, and so many of us may not even realize that we believe it until something very unwonderful is happening in our lives. It's really a version of the American dream plus Jesus. The American dream says that you can be happy and fulfilled and have it all if you just work hard enough. This lie that many Christians believe says you can be happy, fulfilled, everything will go your way and you can have it all, if you just have Jesus.
And it simply isn't true.
There are so many biblical examples of how this is untrue. Read the bible and you will find story after story after story of people who loved the Lord, but had it rough in one way or another. One of the most blatant examples is Paul, the untimely apostle.
Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a scholarly religious man of Jesus' day. He hunted down Christians and killed them because of their message of a crucified and risen Savior named Jesus. Then all things changed on the road to Damascus, where "suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him: and he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?". It was Jesus, and Paul was converted from one who persecuted Jesus and His followers, to one who would be continually persecuted for his faith in Christ.
The Jews plotted to kill Paul (Acts 9:23-25), the apostles shunned him (Acts 9:26), and he was stoned (Acts 14:19). Paul and Barnabas disagreed and parted ways (Acts 15:39), he was beaten and imprisoned in Philipi (Acts 16:22-24), and attacked by a mob in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-6). And from Berea, Athens, and on to Corinth, Ephesus, Jerusalem and Rome there were riots, plots to kill Paul, shipwrecks, beatings, arrests, and imprisonments. In the end, Paul was believed to be beheaded for his faith in Rome under the reign of Nero.
Paul himself writes of his many hardships in 2 Corinthians 11:16-32, and it's a long laundry list of hardships, many that we will never know or begin to comprehend. He even records in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 "a thorn in his flesh" given to him to keep him "from becoming conceited". A thorn that God didn't remove, even though Paul pleaded with the Lord.
The apostle Paul wrote most of the New Testament, in the form of letters to fledgling churches. These are many of the scriptures that we live our lives by. I, personally, find his writings to be some of the most amazing ones in the New Testament. Yet, he was quite possibly the most persecuted person in the history of the Christian faith.
So if, by faith in Jesus, we are to be healthy, happy, wealthy, wise, and living wonderful American lives, why didn't Paul have the same? He didn't, because that isn't what God promises.
Jesus tells us that we will have persecution. He says that the world will hate us. Just read John 15:18-16:4. It's pretty clear that Jesus Himself says that things will not be easy when you follow Him. So not only will things not necessarily be sunshine, roses, puppies and kittens, but we will face persecution. Just like Jesus and Paul did. We may even have thorns in our very flesh to keep us from becoming conceited. Just like Paul did.
So we aren't guaranteed a life free of trouble, a life free of pain and hardship. We aren't guaranteed a life that is always wonderful, all the time. It's a hard truth to swallow, especially in our American culture. And when we have bought into the lie, even just a little bit, we are disappointed and even are mad at God when trouble comes our way or when things don't go the way we want.
I have been there, done that, just this week. For more insight on where I am, you can read my personal blog bit, here. In short, we are supposed to pack up and move, as God is leading my husband to buy a business two hours north of here. I, personally, am not happy with God's plan. I feel brokenhearted, saddened, and lost. I feel like my husband is working against me. I feel like things aren't sunshine, roses, puppies and kittens for me right now. And I feel a little bit like, "doesn't God care about what I want?" And the truth is that He may care, but He also has bigger plans. He has a purpose in what He is doing. I can't see it right now, just as I'm sure Paul couldn't see what God's purposes were, but Paul steadfastly trusted the Lord. He walked forward into all that God had for him, trusting God. And that's what I need to do now, more than anything, is to walk into what God has, trusting Him.
While a move is far from Paul's persecutions, it's still tough for me to gladly accept. But I want to have an attitude like Paul does, and say, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities." And maybe with some time and perspective, I can get to the place where I gladly accept that which God has for me and my family.
It's not easy for me to consent to God's plan, to gladly accept what He has, I'd be lying if I said it was, but I'll get there. I need prayer, and more than anything, I need to rely on God. To tell Him my hurts, fears, and how I'm feeling. And I need to follow His lead. I need to stop believing the lie that things will be easy peasy, roses, rainbows and puppies, when you follow Jesus. I need to immerse myself in the truth of God's Word, the truth of His undying love for me, and ask His help to be content with what He has for us.
Is there something in your life that isn't sunshine and roses right now? Do you feel indignant toward God, like it's His fault? Are you willing to be content with weakness, insults, hardships, and persecutions?