As the audience of this little blog of mine continues to grow, I have noticed that the posts which generate the most interest have been the ones that touch on the harder side of the Christian life.
The Christian life is so often pitched as “that wonderful life where God just brings you more and more awesomeness every day—because that is how much He loves you.” Perhaps the theme verse that serves as the slogan for this take on the Christian life is Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
While this is true for God’s people, and it is a happy promise, it is sobering to remember that it was given at a time when God was allowing the Babylonians to attack and eventually take Jerusalem; it was given at a time when many would die and the few survivors would be deported to Babylon. The good that God was planning was not right around the corner, it was 70 years into the future. What was right around the corner was some serious hard times.
Living for God through Christ in many ways is fun, exciting, and restorative; but it is no less true that it is challenging, difficult, and even bewildering at times. When we focus on looking at the former and ignore about the later we run the danger of experiencing buyer’s remorse. “Where is the abundant life everyone was talking about? Why is faith so much harder than it used to be? Life seemed a lot easier before I was a Christian!” Have you ever had questions or thoughts like those?
There is a reason why hymns like Amazing Grace, It Is Well with My Soul, and A Mighty Fortress are—centuries after being written—still among the best loved songs of the Church, because they acknowledge both sides of the Christian life: joy and suffering.
Going deeper often means going through difficult times, struggling with hard questions, and realizing how small and not in control we really are. As I have said several times recently life has two big lessons:
- I am not, nor was I ever meant to be enough.
- Jesus is enough, and in Him, I will always have enough.
If you get honest with yourself, the only way to learn these lessons is by walking through life’s deep valleys, arid places, and dark caverns. St. John of the Cross called these times dark nights of the soul; very aptly named if you ask me. These times don’t come because you are doing it wrong and God is disciplining you, they come because you are doing it right and God wants to take you deeper into Him.
I’ll be honest, writing those posts take a lot of effort. They are, in a sense very personal…which may be another reason they get so much attention. I don’t know that I could produce them on a regular basis. But I can put them all in one category so that they are easy to find. Thus, I have started a new category called Going Deeper where all the posts I have written in this vein will be available for you to access. I hope it becomes a helpful resource for you as you and I are learning to live for God through Christ, being full of grace and truth.