This week I was asked to co-write on a brand new blog called Destined to Write. I've put the post I wrote for them below, but click HERE to follow along on their new blog and support them on their way!
The other day I heard a new worship song where the chorus went something like this, “I know that every little thing is going to be alright, everything is going to be just fine.”
I tried to sing the words, but honestly I just don’t believe them, so I couldn’t make myself participate. How many sermons and songs have you heard recently about how God is going to take care of your every need and desire? How many times have you inadvertently heard that being a Christian means that life will suddenly be easier? I bet no one has come right out and said those words to you, but unfortunately here in America a lot of our theology is slowly warped by a reward system mentality. If we do good, and we are good, then good things will happen for us.
I’m not even talking about the “prosperity gospel,” which if you haven’t heard that term, it’s basically the idea that because you believe in the Bible, you will prosper, be rich, have more than your friends, etc. That’s not what I mean. I mean that we have a base level expectation that because we are trying to be good people, then we DESERVE good things in return for our efforts. Not a Porsche, but maybe a new Jeep. Not a mansion, but definitely a modern 2 bed 2 bath in a semi nice neighborhood. Not the CEO, but a fun work environment with flexible vacation days. Not a significant other who’s a model, but someone who just barely didn’t make the cut for swim fashion week. Not 5 carats, but definitely 2. Not the perfect family, but a functioning one for sure. Not absolutely loaded, but enough money in the bank for one vacation a year. Not 3 or 4 kids, but at least one. Not 20 friends, but a few good ones. Am I starting to make you feel uncomfortable yet?
We believe that we deserve normal, or just above normal (whatever “normal” looks like for the group of people we spend our time with) when the truth is that just isn’t promised to us.
"Normal" isn’t the gospel at all.
I do not believe in false hope. I don’t believe in turning church into a place where we all greet each other during the awkward 5 minutes that our pastor forces upon us at the beginning of the sermon, just to have surface level pleasantries, sit down, and hear about how we shouldn’t worry about anything. In fact, worry is a sin. But, it’s only a sin because of COURSE everything is going to work out. Of course everything will eventually return to normal in our lives. Things may ebb and flow, but they always come back to average.
Yes, we are told over and over again in the Bible “do not be afraid,” but it isn’t because everything in life will be good. It isn’t because bad things aren’t going to happen. We aren’t told not to fear because it would be illogical to do so. I can say with certainty, in the climate of our world today, not many people would call you illogical for having a little bit of fear. But at the times when the words “do not be afraid,” were written over and over again, there was plenty to be afraid of as well.
We aren’t told not to worry because life will always be good. We are told not to worry because God will always good.
And that’s where the disconnect for a lot of people comes in: “Well if He’s a good Father, and a good God, then why wouldn’t he provide the absolute best of everything for my life?”
Do you know what the term “Lawnmower Parents” means? I’m sure you’ve heard of helicopter parents, the kind that hover over their children day and night, never allowing any semblance of freedom. Well this generation has a whole new type of parent: the kind that walks out in front of their children, mowing down any obstacles that might get in their way, so that they don’t have to deal with hardship. I’m sure for the most part it comes from a good place, but what it produces is quite simply an unequipped brat who will struggle HARD in the real world, if they ever have to face it.
That isn’t what God wants for us. He wants us to grow, and specifically, He wants us to grow closer to Him. There is a certain sweetness that can only be found in the valley. There is an intimacy with God that can only be felt when He is absolutely all we have to cling to. There is a courage that is only found in the lion’s den. There is a love that only grows from the wounds of a broken heart. Some of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received in life were brought as victories from suffering.
But to be honest, that still doesn’t always make suffering easier.
Trust me, I don’t fully understand the concept of a good God who doesn’t make all of life easy for those who believe in Him. But what I do fully understand is this: that we are hurting people by trying to bring them into faith with the idea that once they believe, everything else is easier. It isn’t true, and when they find that out for themselves, the consequences can be devastating. If I was a new believer, and I built my faith upon the idea that everything gets better once we believe hard enough, tithe big enough, and attend church enough, then I was faced with something tragic, I probably would lose faith too. I understand why people who were set up with false hope eventually lose hope altogether. I understand why people get angry when it doesn’t get better. I understand why people leave churches that told them every little thing was going to be okay now.
So, let’s not be that kind of church. Let’s suffer well together and admit when things are hard. But more than that, let’s search for the good gifts that can only be found in the valley of life together. Let’s simultaneously accept the hardship and believe that God is still good instead of trying to make those two variables depend on one another. Let’s weed through the illogical to find God’s goodness stand apart from it all. Do not be afraid, because God is still GOOD.
This is a topic that takes way more decoding than I’ve provided here, but luckily another author has done an exquisite job of laying out practicals for this very hard mental practice. Currently, my bible study group is reading “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way,” by Lysa Terkeurst, and I can honestly say it’s changing my life. I’ve always known that bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people, but Lysa gives us the sweetest perspective on how to navigate that hard truth within the basis of Christianity. If what I wrote out today struck a chord with you or challenged you in any way, if you’re in the valley of life currently, if life isn’t even “bad” for you right now but you’re frustrated by its lack of “great”, then I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Lysa’s book to further this discussion.
“If we weren’t ever shattered we’d never know the glorious touch of the Potter making something glorious out of dust, out of us.” – Lysa Terkeurst.