Here is a question for you: What is following Jesus like for you?
Is being a Christian ritualistic? Is it comforting? Is it exciting?
God has been teaching me about how simply amazing life is when I live for Jesus. And I don't mean butterflies and rainbows amazing, but hard, spiritual-battle-filled, running to my Savior kind of amazing. It is not perfect. It is not always happy. But God is always good.
I admit, sometimes I have a habit of sugar-coating my life— and by extension, sugar-coating God. God's love for each of us is so great, but he also knows that the trials and struggles of life are often what is best for us. But, when trouble strikes, I tend to question God and his goodness.
It was interesting this week— I was reading in the book of Job and then heard a sermon by Francis Chan on the same portion of Scripture. Growing up, I always found Job to be a really depressing book. Seriously, Job lost everything: his kids, his possessions, even his health. And after all that, his friends thought he was crazy. I avoided this book because it scared me. Just the concept that God would give Satan the power to take everything from one of God's children is terrifying. But the more and more I experience the pain of this world, the more I admire Job. When he had lost everything and even his body was falling apart, his wife told him to give up. "Curse God and die!" she said. Yet, Job does the opposite, and his reply stuck with me: "Will we accept good from God and not trouble?"
I think this is the greatest fault in the American version of Christianity. We are so used to our air-conditioned buildings, comfy seats, and repeat-after-me prayers, that we lump God into the same category. And just like we change churches or stop going all together if the speaker isn't engaging or the sermons aren't compelling, we stick with God as long as it benefits us. But when the storms of life come and the pain is overwhelming, we may blame God or even doubt his existence.
Who do we think we are?
This morning, my pastor preached on Exodus 15-17, when God tested the people of Israel in the wilderness. This was right after God had done the supernatural act of salvation we like to call the "Red Sea Crossing." God defeated their enemies and walked them through great danger unharmed. It was an amazing show of his power. Despite this, just a few months later, the Israelites started asking, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exodus 17:17)
So many times, we become just like the Israelites. When life is hard and the struggle seems unending, we, in our short-sighted minds, conveniently forget all that God has done in the past and grumble at him for not doing something in the present. God is working out his story in your life here and now, no matter if you can see it or not. He is doing great things in my life, even on the days when I pray to him through sobbing, because I didn't think it could get any worse, and it just did.
Here is where the amazing part comes in. All of this pain, struggle, hurt, and fear, has drawn me closer to God than I have ever been before. When I got news that seemed to break my heart, I ran up to my room to cry in the arms of my Savior, and he gave me strength to carry on. I read back through my prayer journal, and seem Jesus moving even in those short entries. While I may be in deep sadness and anger at the beginning of a page, by the time I reach the next I am already feeling the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit.
I could say far more about all that God is doing, but I think I will leave it here. I do want to share with you a song that has impacted me greatly this last week. It is called Great Things by Elevation Worship, and it speaks of God working through the hard times of life. May you be encouraged.