Life is hard and that troubles us. If God is good and loving and powerful, why is life so hard? That seems to be a question that we have a difficult time getting our arms around.
Last week, I wrote about embracing the struggle here. The post got a lot of traction. Articles that deal with finding a satisfying life or the struggle to do so, seem to get the most attention. This leads me to believe three things.
One, we all have a deep desire for life.
Two, we are having a hard time finding it.
Three, we are confused by this difficulty.
God made us to desire deeply. We want life. We want happiness. We want joy. We want satisfaction. Those things are good. God wants you to have them as well. The trouble is that we often look in all the wrong places. Jesus came to give us life. That was his mission as he declared in John 10:10. So why is it hard to grab hold of? Is Jesus failing?
We need to look at the bigger picture so that we can understand why life is hard. Here are my Top five reasons life is hard.
1. You live in a world that is under the discipline of hardship.
Remember the garden? Adam and Eve sin. Everything changes. We don’t live in Eden anymore. Sin has infected all of creation. It is different. The world is not as it was created to be. Part of that is God’s discipline. Candid talk about discipline isn’t well received in our day, but let’s be direct. Discipline in whatever form we can think of is intended to bring pain of some sort in order to teach. The fall intentionally results in pain.
Women are given the pain of childbirth. “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.” -Genesis 3:16
Men are given the pain of difficult work. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it…” -Gensis 3:16-19
Our rebellion…and Adam and Eve’s rebellion is our rebellion…results in a hard life. It is part of the curse…the discipline of God. Some day, that curse will be lifted. The heaven and earth will be remade and life will again be as God intended it to be. That is coming. Be hopeful.
2. You have an enemy that is actively pursuing you.
This is the most ignored and underestimated reality of the world that we live in. It actually goes all the way back to Genesis 3 and God’s discipline. Speaking to the serpent, who is Satan, God says:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” -Genesis 3:15
There is a lot going on in that passage, but my point here is that God declares that there will be an ongoing conflict between Satan and mankind. We greatly underestimate this conflict. The Bible proclaims that we live in the midst of a spiritual battle, yet we continually live like there is no conflict at all. People that live in a war zone and act like they don’t become casualties. Many Christians are taken out because they don’t understand the hard things they experience. God is not letting you down. Jesus is not failing. There is a spiritual battle taking place and you are ignoring it. Consider 1 Peter 5:8:
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.“
Do you believe the Bible? Do you think these words are true? Because if you believe them, you should live differently. Satan is actively looking for those who are not alert…not fighting the spiritual battle, so that he can destroy them. God has stated that Satan wants to devour you. You may read that and think it is an exaggeration. Look around you. Look at the suffering around the world. Look at how hard life has been for people you love.
Do not confuse the work of Satan with a failure of God in your life. God told us how this was going to play out from the beginning. Trust God and fight.
3. You do dumb stuff.
Sorry, but you do. So do I. So does everyone. Guess what? That makes life messy and hard. Let’s face it, so many of the hard experiences in our life are self generated. We sin…we ignore God’s wisdom…we go our own way and we hurt ourselves and we hurt others. We can’t make a mess of our life based on our choices and then blame God. We can’t act dumb and then wonder why life is hard.
Line your life up with Jesus Christ and his word. Obedience leads to the full life that you want.
4. You have a God who’s mission is not to make you comfortable.
We have such a perverted view of God. He does not exist for you. You exist for him.
I’ll admit it. Too often, I treat God like he is my servant. God do this…God do that. It’s true that God has given us the privilege of prayer and invited us to ask, but that doesn’t make God my hireling obligated to jump whenever I ask. It certainly doesn’t give me a rightful expectation that God will make my life smooth and comfortable.
I want comfort, but God wants me to be conformed.
He wants to make me like Jesus. He wants to grow me. He wants me to be holy as he is holy. That is his mission.
None of that happens in comfort. All growth requires struggle, pain and hardship. Do you want bigger biceps? Do some curls until your arms burn with pain. Do you want to learn a new skill or trade? Get to work, study and strain. Do you desire godliness? It requires the same kind of training and struggle. Much of that training is experiential. We don’t grow through prayer and bible study alone. We grow through life. We grow through experience. We grow through failure. We grow through hardship.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:2-4
The simple reality is that we cannot become holy without hardship.
5. You have no idea what good thing God is up to.
As I type that sentence, I think it is the truest thing that I have articulated. Do you ever feel like you understand what God is up to in your life? Most of the time, I have no idea. Since I rarely grasp what God is doing, it forces me go back to the most important truth that I know about God.
God is good.
If God is good…if he has good intentions for me, I can trust him. I can trust that somehow…someway, he is working out the confusion of my life for my good and his glory. That is the beauty of Romans 8:28:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The only way that you can posses that confidence is to know that above all else, God is good. He loves you. He really does have a plan and a purpose for you.
If you are struggling…if life is hard…talk to God. Affirm your conviction that he is good. Affirm your hope that somehow he is working out good things for you. Ask him for help in persevering. Ask him what he wants you to do.
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