It is no secret that life is hard. The tough reality is that following Jesus doesn't make life any less of a struggle. There is a part of us, even though God never made this promise, which expects things to be easy because we are living a life of faith. For some reason we believe that an easy and smooth life is an indication of God's love for us.
This might be true if the only force at work in the universe was the force of good. Remember, while God is sovereign, He has allowed His creation a certain amount of free will. This includes the angels. The Bible is clear that there are supernatural forces that are opposed to God. Paul wrote:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10-14, ESV)
This is the reason why I think it makes sense to expect that life will be a struggle, especially if we are following Jesus. Since there is an enemy opposed to God and His kingdom, then we will be attacked because we are part of that kingdom.
That doesn't mean that each step of the journey will be a battle. We have enough experience to know that there are seasons of great joy and peace as we follow Jesus. What I want us to remember is that struggling isn't a bad thing, in fact it could be an indication that we are doing precisely what God wants us to do.
In the midst of the struggle we need to remember what Jesus said to the church in Smyrna:
“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 2:9-11; NLT)
Jesus tells this group of Christ Followers 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. Most of us are simply facing circumstances that have not turned out the way we expected. Often reality isn’t anything like our dreams, and when that is the case we begin to wonder if we are in the right place. We ask ourselves, “Should I continue on or should I just give up?” Whatever the case maybe we can be certain that it won't last forever.
When we are in the midst of the struggle when do we give up and when do we endure to the end? I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for such situations, but let me offer you a few thoughts.
- Consider this question: Is my struggle the result of following Jesus? If you can answer yes, then we are doing what God wants us to do. When our desire is to honor God, encourage people, help others, and grow in our knowledge and faith; then there are a lot of places we can go and things we can do and still remain in God’s will. These are certainly things that Satan will oppose. If you are being faithful and loving God and loving people we can expect things to be a struggle. Stay faithful, because most likely you are in the right place.
- Let go of your dreams. I think God allows us to experience struggles sometimes because our dreams need to be changed. The dreams we have for our lives are causing us to miss out on the life God created us to live. The only way God can get us to let go of that dream is to cause it to shatter. Shattered dreams are painful, and through that struggle God will bring a new and better dream to our lives. If we can voluntarily lay aside our dreams to make room for God's will in our lives we can save ourselves from a lot of heartache.
- Seek the encouragement and advice from more mature Christians. These could be people you are close to or just people you you know, but they need to be people you respect and who live faithful lives. While we need to be mindful to evaluate what they say, they can help us see things from a different perspective. Too often we get so close to the situation that we fail to see the entire picture. The perspective of other Christians can help us see things more clearly.
Life is tough. Just because life is tough doesn’t mean that we are not doing God’s will. Often the struggle is an indication that we are doing what God wants us to do, because the Enemy is working against us. Whatever the struggle is we need to remain faithful to God. In the end we will experience the life He created us to live.
Questions to Consider:
- How have you experienced Satan's opposition in your life?
- Does it help to know that some struggles are the result of opposition?
- When should you give up during a struggle?