It is no secret that life is hard. Even when we are following Jesus and doing God’s will, life doesn’t get any easier. We may sometimes expect things to be easier if we are doing what is right, even though this has never been promised. We want to be validated and reassured that we are doing the right thing.
It is logical to assume that if we are doing God’s will, then things would be difficult.
Why should we assume that?
Because the enemy is opposed to God.
If we are making progress in overcoming sin in our lives, if we are in a relationship that God wants us to be a part of, if we are part of a ministry that is making a difference in the community, or if we are standing up for what is right, we shouldn't be surprised if things are difficult.
However, we can't solely evaluate things based on whether things are going well or not.
Sometimes things will go well even though it is God’s will, and sometimes things will be a struggle even though it goes against God’s law.
All I want to do is to remind you that struggling isn’t a bad thing. When following God’s will becomes a struggle, it gives us an opportunity to grow and appreciate what God has in store for us on the other side of the struggle.
In the midst of our struggles, we need to remember what Jesus said to the church in Smyrna:
“Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: Thus says the First and the Last, the one who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and poverty, but you are rich. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will never be harmed by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11; CSB)
Jesus told this group of His 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.
Our struggle, most likely, are circumstances haven't turned out the way we expected. That realization that our dreams haven’t gone according to our plans, which causes us to wonder if we are really in the right place. We ask ourselves, “Should I continue to live by faith, or should I just give up?”
I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for such situations, but let me offer you a few thoughts.
First, is to ask yourself the question, “Is my struggle related to living righteously and faithfully?” If the answer is yes, then you are doing what God wants you to do. When your desire is to honor God, to encourage and love people, and to grow in your knowledge and faith, then there are many places you can go and things you can do and remain in God’s will. Living a life that honors God by following Jesus is a life that Satan opposes.
Second, consider letting go of your dreams. I think God allows people to go through struggle because their dreams need to be changed. We miss out on the life God wants us to live when we cling too tightly to the dreams we have for our lives. Remember, we may even have to lay down our best dreams for our lives in order to experience God’s best for us. Letting go of a dream is an act of faith because we have to trust that God’s will for our lives is greater than our dreams.
Third, get the opinions of different Christians. These could be people you have a close relationship with or not. The two criteria are that you respect their opinion and they faithfully follow Jesus. We still need to evaluate what they have to tell us, but they will help us see things from a different perspective. Too often, we are so closely involved in the situation that we fail to see all the different angles it has. The perspective of other Christians helps 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, and the Enemy is opposing us. We need to stay faithful, and in the end, we will experience the life God created us to live.