Many Church services emphasize everything as “Wonderful!” and “Great!” and “Amazing!” Straining to present ourselves in such positive terms is risky. It gives a one-sided view of reality. Our emphasis must be balanced with the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.
- Matthew 6:34 – “Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
- John 15:20 – “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also”.
- John 16:33 – “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
- Acts 14:21-22 – “…returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.”
Instruction about hardships, trials, and suffering was part of the core curriculum of disciple-making. It was presented as something normal to the Christian life.
Some of us live in cultures that encourage expectations of uninterrupted happiness. When Churches strain to paint everything in positive terms, not only are they playing to the culture, they are setting believers up to be shocked or disillusioned by trials and suffering.
I appreciate the way one writer approached this truth:
“We need to develop the wisdom for living a life that is comfortable with being uncomfortable, and accept the fact that it sometimes doesn’t feel good to be a Christian….” “many people believe God’s main job is to make us feel good about ourselves and remain happy on our journey…”
“In this approach to following Jesus, there is no place for ambiguity, tension, struggle or any sense of anxiety. It’s a lot easier to believe that abundant life comes without pain and struggle. This mentality, however, directly opposes the type of self-denying life Jesus lived (Luke 22:42), and the inward dying and external pain Paul wrote about (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, Romans 5:3-5)” (By Zac Northen).
Hardship and Hope
Believers face sorrow like all people — but we do not sorrow like those who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13). We have access to the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles (II Corinthians 1:3-4). And we are encouraged to count it all joy when facing trails of many kinds (James 1:2-5).
We also “eagerly await a Savior from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).
One day “the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
Until that day comes, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).
Do our gatherings reflect the balance of these truths?
Are we equipping young people and new believers to understand the place of hardship and suffering in a context of hope?
I get the desire to be positive, but let’s not allow ourselves to be artificial or dishonest in leaving out important truths that God has graciously revealed.
“Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11).