Christians May Expect Smooth Sailing

So tell me, where did we get the notion that the Christian life is a piece of cake?  Where is the evidence for the "name it, claim it" theology that promises God will skip along in front of us with His great cosmic broom, sweeping aside each trial and every troubling uncertainty?  To the contrary, Jesus told His disciples that they should anticipate suffering.  He said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).  Paul wrote, "In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.  For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn--conflicts on the outside, fears within" (2 Cor. 7:4-5).  Peter left no doubt about difficulties in this Christian life when he wrote, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (1 Pet. 4:12-13).  Note in each of these references the coexistence of both joy and pain.

This is the consistent, unequivocal expectation we have been given by the biblical writers, and yet we seem determined to rewrite the text.  That makes us sitting ducks for satanic mischief.

My concern is that many believers apparently feel God owes them smooth sailing or at least a full explanation (and perhaps an apology) for the hardships they encounter.  We must never forget that He, after all, is God.  He is majestic and holy and sovereign.  He is accountable to no one.  He is not an errand boy who chases the assignments we dole out.  He is not a genie who pops out of the bottle to satisfy our whims.  He is not our servant--we are His.  And our reason for existence is to glorify and honor Him.

Even so, sometimes He performs mighty miracles on our behalf.  Sometimes He chooses to explain His actions in our lives.  Sometimes His presence is as real as if we had encountered Him face to face.  But at other times when nothing makes sense--when what we are going through is "not fair"--when we feel all alone in God's waiting room--He simply says, "Trust Me!"

Does this mean we are destined to be depressed and victimized by the circumstances of our lives?  Certainly not.  Paul said we are "more than conquerors."  He wrote in Philippians 4:4-7, "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Clearly, what we have in Scripture is a paradox.  On the one hand we are told to expect suffering and hardship that could even cost us our lives.  On the other hand, we are encouraged to be joyful, thankful, and "of good cheer."  How do those contradictory ideas link together?  How can we be triumphant and under intense pressure at the same time?  How can we be secure when surrounded by insecurity?  That is a mystery, which, according to Paul, "transcends all understanding."

For those of you out there today who have already been through hard times and are desperate for a word of encouragement, let me assure you that you can trust this Lord of heaven and earth.  Remember that Scripture warns us to "lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5).

Note that we are not prohibited from trying to understand.  I've spent a lifetime attempting to get a handle on some of the imponderables of life.  But we are specifically told not to lean on our ability to make the pieces fit.  "Leaning" refers to the panicky demand for answers--throwing faith to the wind if a satisfactory response cannot be produced.  It is pressing God to explain Himself--or else!  That is where everything starts to unravel.

If we can comprehend even a tiny portion of the Lord's majesty and the depth of His love for us, we can deal with those times when He defies human logic and sensibilities.  Indeed, that is what we must do.  Expect confusing experiences to occur along the way, and don't be dismayed when they arrive.  Welcome them as friends--as opportunities for your faith to grow.  Hold fast to your faith, without which it is impossible to please Him.  "Lean into the pain" when your time to suffer comes around.  Never yield to feelings of self-pity or victimization, which are Satan's most effective tools against us.  Instead, store away your questions for a lengthy conversation in eternity, and then press on toward the mark.  Any other approach is foolhardy.

Book: Life on the Edge

By Dr. James Dobson

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