I used to think that just because I was Christian life would automatically be “easy.”After all God Almighty, Creator of the universe was on MY side… everything I went through would be a piece of cake, right?
My life would be full or rainbows, butterflies, and happy feelings.
I’d wake up feeling abundant joy every morning and go to sleep with a huge smile on my face every night.
Life would always make sense.
My prayers would always get answered just like I wanted them to.
And I’d never have to go through one more valley again.
But that is so far from the truth.
No one gets a “get out of hard stuff in life” card. Especially not followers of Christ.
But before God taught me that trials would be the greatest blessings in my life I used to think that they were the worst things that could happen to me.
I used to even think that they were some kind of spiritual “sign” from God. That I was not being a “good enough Christian”. That I was doing something wrong. That I somehow deserved them and if only I fixed whatever it was I was doing I would live a problem-free life.
But that’s obviously not the case. Bad things happen to good people. It’s a part of life that we must all come to terms with. The sooner the better.
And when I think about people who lived hard lives one person in particular comes to mind. One very important person. A person I know very well. Jesus.
And the interesting this? He CHOSE to come down on earth to live that life here. He left the glories of heaven, the thousands of angels constantly exalting Him, the streets of gold… to live in a dark, broken world where he would be despised, rejected, and crucified… Wow. Who from us would choose to do the same? Leave the comforts and glory of heaven for a cruel world that wouldn’t ever understand who it is that walked among them? I don’t know if I’d be able to do it. But Jesus did.
As Jesus’ followers… I think that’s what God meant when He says in His Word that we must pick up our cross and follow Him.
Our cross is the life that He has planned for us to live.
A life where we become more like Christ every day.
A life where we serve Jesus by serving others (just like Jesus did).
For Jesus, His ultimate goal and purpose in life was to pick up that cross… to carry it to Calvary… to be crucified on it. That cross is what we often think about when we come to Jesus in prayer. When we remember His sacrifice for our sins. It is because of Jesus hanging on that cross that we all have the free gift of salvation.
Often times when I think about “picking up my cross” it makes me cringe. Who wants to do that? It seems so hard. So burdensome. I mean, doesn’t God want me to enjoy this life? To be happy?
The answer to that is “yes”, of course! God originally created humans (Adam & Eve) for His enjoyment and for companionship. But we all know where the story goes from there…
And now that we are redeemed through what Christ did on the cross we can all have a relationship with Him and we can enjoy the life He has given us… but that doesn’t mean that life is going to be easy. After all, we still live in a sinful, fallen world.
And one of God’s purpose for us in this life is so that through constant communion with Him and His Word we will become more like Christ every day.
So we can shine His light to the dark and broken world.
So we can be His hands and feet to hurting people.
So we can live a life of servanthood, just like Jesus did.
And becoming like Jesus requires going through things Jesus went through. It requires leaving a life of comfort and living life like Jesus did.
I read this quote by Rick Warren recently “Since God intends to make you like Jesus, He will take you through the same experiences Jesus went through. That includes loneliness, temptation, stress, criticism, rejection, and many other problems.”
Honestly when I read this at first, I thought to myself “Wow… it all makes sense now. The heartaches and pain I’ve been through. The hardships. The rejections. The loneliness. Everything.”
And it made me realize that maybe I’m on the right track in life… that maybe this is exactly where God wants me to be.
Going through a few trials that test my faith.
Going through a period of loneliness that makes me depend on Him alone.
Not knowing what exactly lies ahead so that I can trust Him and His plan for my life over my own. So I can say “His Will be done, Not Mine”…
There are two ways you can look at the challenges in life. You can look at them as problems that you don’t want to deal with OR you can look at them as opportunities. Opportunities where you can learn to grow more like Jesus.
Think about the fruits of the spirit, which we should all develop and possess after growing in Christ and becoming more like Him.
Love… how will you truly learn to love until God puts people into your life that are difficult to love?
Joy…how will you learn to have joy until you find yourself in a place where you’re not even happy with circumstances in life and your joy can only come from God alone?
Peace…how can you learn to have peace until you are put into a stressful situation where all you want to do is stay up all night and worry + be anxious about your life?
Patience… how can you learn to be patient unless God gives you something in life that you really want but you have to wait on His perfect timing for?
Gentleness… how can you learn to be gentle unless you find yourself in a situation where you are arguing with someone and are tempted to say harsh words that you can’t take back?
Self-control… how can you learn to have self-control until you first have something you want to indulge in that will require you to have self-control to restrain yourself from doing it?
Faith… how can you learn to have faith until you find yourself in a place where all your options are gone.. your first plan, your back-up plan… and every plan after that and you can only trust in God alone to get you through?
Perseverance… how can you learn to persevere with Christ until you fail or fall a few times… and need to get back up again and keep on trying?
When you start looking at challenges in life as opportunities… things change.
Temptations become opportunities to practice self-control.
Waiting becomes an opportunity to practice patience.
Stress becomes an opportunity to practice peace.
Discouragement becomes an opportunity to practice joy.
No, the situation doesn’t change. What’s going on in your life doesn’t all of a sudden disappear. But you will handle it differently. With a better attitude. With a purpose. And in the end… it will help you become exactly who you want to be: like Jesus.
If you’re going through a difficult time in life right now don’t be discouraged.
Look at whatever you’re going through as an opportunity.
An opportunity to grow, to learn, to become more like Christ. Don’t waste this opportunity no matter how hard it may be, trust God with it. And don’t forget… the bigger the storm, the bigger the testimony!
Keep on holding on to Christ and following Him… and He’ll bring you through to the other side and help you learn a few things along the way. :) Be blessed! - Anna… ♥