I’ve noticed a problem in the American church. Well, really there are lots of problems, but one has stuck out recently, and I’m as guilty as anyone else.
Somehow, we’ve gotten the mistaken idea that being a Christian is all about me. Being a believer—“following the rules”—is supposed to make my life better. For example, we believe that when it comes to money, we just need to follow Biblical principles and our families will prosper. Or, we believe that God will smooth the way and eliminate any problems or hardships from our lives.
This all sounds lovely. If this is Christianity, you’d think everyone would be a Christian! But what happens when circumstances don’t fit our expectations?
What happens when the healing we prayed for doesn’t happen? What happens when the business deal falls through, and we face financial disaster? What happens when we lose a job, or the car breaks down, or our wayward child doesn’t come back to church? What about famines, natural disasters, and wars?
Perhaps hardest of all, what do we do when it’s God who asks us to do something, and it makes life harder, not easier?
How do we respond when God tells us to stay in a particular church, even when it “isn’t meeting our needs”? When we’re told to turn the other cheek when we’re treated unjustly? When we’re sent to bring the gospel to a people living in a hot, dirty, difficult place?
Can our faith survive?
The problem is that many of us have a hard time accepting that bad things happen to good Christians. When life gets hard—when things go horribly wrong— we get mad at God. I’ve even seen believers throw a tantrum! But what we’re really saying is, “God, you’re not obeying me!”
I love this quote from C.S. Lewis:
I didn’t go to Christianity to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.
But God never promised us that everything would work out the way we want it to. In fact, He promised just the opposite: “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33a) Did Jesus come to be comfortable? (And yet we are to follow His example.) Read through the rest of the New Testament and you’ll see how the early church suffered. Should we expect less?
I suspect that the reason we get so upset when life isn’t perfect is that we truly believe it’s supposed to be, and that God exists to make us happy. Isn’t that what we mean when we say God loves us?
Actually, it’s the other way around. We’re supposed to please God. We’re here to fulfill His plans. We’re here to bring Him glory. Jesus tells us, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25, italics mine) Paul says to present ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). That doesn’t sound very comfortable.
Of course it’s true that God loves us. That’s why, in His promise to always be with us, He gives us the greatest gift possible—His presence. He is with us in the hard times and hard places. He will never forsake us. Nothing can separate us from His love.
Christianity isn’t all about me. It’s all about Him.
I want to end with this quote I found on one of my favorite blogs: “God invites us into such a deep devotion to him—a personal, intimate connection with the Almighty—that sunshine or storms, safe—harbors or shipwrecks, all pale in an inexplicable joy of knowing him.”