We were never promised an easy life.
Even though we know this reality we always feel like life is unfair when hardships, trials, and difficulties show up in our lives. We expect life to go easily, and when it doesn’t it shakes us to the core.
I believe that Christians, though we wouldn’t admit it, secretly believe that following Jesus should make life easier. After all, we reason, we are doing God’s will and that means He should help us in our work. This is why it is easy for people to walk away from Jesus when things get difficult.
Let me throw this thought out at you: Does opposition make things easier or more difficult?
Since there is an enemy, Satan, who is opposed to God and His will, then it would be logical to conclude that by following Jesus things would get more difficult. Satan is not going to sit idly by as we pursue the will of God. He is going to fight us every step of the way. Because there is an enemy, because there is evil, and because sin has corrupted this world means we can expect opposition in our lives.
This tells us that even when we are doing God’s will things will not always go smoothly for us. The mere fact that we are doing God’s will means we can expect opposition. When hardships and trials come our way the best thing we can do is to struggle forward. As James pointed out in James 1:2-4, God uses these situations to mature our faith.
In the face of opposition, of hardships, and of trials it is vital that we hold on to God’s promise. Hope is essential to enduring the struggles of life.
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive:
“I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11; NLT)
Jesus told this group of Christians not to give up in the face of persecution. “Hang in there,” He says, “this won’t last forever.”
Our struggle may not be persecution, but it is still a form of opposition from the enemy. While we are in the midst of that opposition it will seem like things would be easier if we give up and do something else. This is why Jesus reminds us of the great promise he has for us: a crown of life. Don’t give up, the reward is more than worth the pain!
How do we hang on and trust in Jesus when life becomes a struggle?
- Ask yourself the question: Is my struggle tied to right and faithful living? We need to be honest, sometimes life is a struggle because we have made bad choices. If that is the case, then we need to change the way we live. While God won’t take away the consequences of bad choices, He will empower us to get through them. On the other hand, if our hardships come from doing God’s will, then we need to remain faithful. If our desire is to honor God, encourage people, help others, and mature in our faith then we can expect to be opposed by Satan. We overcome Satan by being faithful to Jesus.
- Let go of your expectations. Each one of us carries around in minds what it life should look like and the wild success we will experience in ministry. These expectations can motivate us, but they can also be a huge stumbling block when life turns out to be different. That is why it is essential for us to be flexible, to lay down our agendas, and seek God’s guidance. Keep your focus on the hope of Jesus’s promise and not on your expectations.
- Surround yourself with friends. If we believe that we are alone in our struggle it is very easy to give up. It is much easier to endure when we are with friends. My first hiking trip to Colorado I went myself and I didn’t complete one hike. The reason was because I was alone and I got discouraged by the difficulties of the trials. When I have gone with friends I have been able to complete the trials, even when I felt like turning around, because we were on the trial together. The same is true in life and ministry.
Life is tough. The fact that life is tough doesn’t mean that we are on the wrong trial, so we should not allow difficulty to cause us to give up. Remember, often the struggle of life is an indication that we are doing what God wants us to do and we are being opposed by the enemy. Regardless of the circumstances of life we need to stay faithful, and in the end we will experience the life God created us to live.