We have believed a deception about our faith. Preachers have subtly hinted at it. Worship songs have declared it. Bible passages have been taken out of context to support it. And it slowly erodes our confidence, because our life is simply not reflective of this pseudo-truth. What am I speaking of?
We have been taught if we are faithful in our walk with God, our lives will be free of problems. Conversely, if we have problems in our life OF ANY KIND, it is because we have some unconfessed sin, some immaturity, some imperfect view of God. In short, problems are sent by God to discipline us because we have issues.
This is simply not true. None of the biblical narratives support this fallacy. Think about it for just a moment. Abraham was blessed with great wealth, but also with great challenges. His wife was seduced by powerful men. He needed to rescue his relative from enemy capture. He was childless until well past Social Security age. Then he was asked to kill his son to prove his commitment to God. This is no simple life.
And Abraham is not the exception, but rather proves the rule.
Jacob had to work for seven years to EARN his wife, and then “won” the wrong woman. After seven more years, he was able to marry the woman he loved, but that was only the beginning. Two sisters, one husband? Sounds like the making of a modern day reality show, and it was just that too. Jealousies and anger and bargaining for sexual favors and playing favorites and deception was all in a day’s work for this family.
Joseph was sold into slavery because of this jealousy, along with some ill-advised dream-sharing of his own. After working hard for a period in Potiphar’s house, and honoring the woman of the house by NOT sleeping with her, he was rewarded for his diligence with jail time. Sure, he eventually became the vice regent of Egypt, but to ignore the years upon years he spent in exile and pain discounts the reality of the Joseph narrative.
In the Old Testament, pain and sorrow were part of the package when it came to serving God. And this pattern remained unchanged in the New Testament.
Peter left his family to follow Jesus when he was called away from his profession as a fisherman. We know for sure he was married, as Jesus stayed at the home of Peter’s mother-in-law in the gospel of Matthew. It is very difficult to have a mother-in-law without a wife, so he at the very least left his wife at home with no viable income to support herself. If he had kids, it gets even more interesting.
After the Day of Pentecost, Peter is thrown in jail for preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. He and John were beaten and released to return to their fledgling church. We are too quick to read of God’s redemption by focusing on the release from prison, but we miss the middle of the story. Peter was imprisoned. Peter was beaten. Because he loved Jesus.
It was no better for Paul — indeed, it may have been worse. Paul was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, and then imprisoned again. He had to run from mobs, who first proclaimed him a god and then wanted to kill him. He had something so painful in his life that he asked God to remove it from him multiple times, but God said no every time. Further, God insisted Paul needed to stay week to reflect the strength of God in his life.
A life of obedience to God does not produce only blessing. We are promised pain and sorrow, trials and tribulations — by Jesus and his brother James. That we are continually surprised at the challenges in our life reflects how poorly we have been trained in our faith.
We will have mountains in our lives. It is time we learned how to navigate them.
What wisdom to you have to share for us as we climb the mountains of life?