No one likes the idea of living a life dogged by hardship. I can pretty much guarantee no one wakes up in the morning and says “Hurray! Today’s going to be really difficult!”. It just doesn’t happen. So instead we actively look for ways to relieve life’s hardships. The disappointing thing is that we do so with very little relief. Life somehow just stays hard. Even when we accept Christ and find the answers to life we’ve been looking for, we’re still followed by hardship and struggle. I have sat with people who have asked (and more than once have wondered myself) if I’ve accepted Christ, why is my life still so difficult? Am I doing something wrong? Did I make a mistake somewhere? Am I not doing enough?
Is God not in my corner?
These are very real, painful doubts that we all go through. We are not mistaken in believing we are saved or treasured, but we are mistaken in thinking that’s the end of the story. The fact of the matter is that our personal story is a battle in the scale of an entire war. We can be secure in victory and still have a great deal of work to slog through.
Think of it in the way the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. Go with me here. History comparisons are one of my few comparisons. The invasion of Normandy was the biggest piece in the puzzle of the war. Pull it off, and the allies would have the foothold they so desperately needed to take back Europe. Fail, and the colossal loss of life would have cost the Allies nearly an entire generation of its young men. It was the epitome of Do or Die.
And then the invasion was a success. A hard-won, heartbreakingly difficult success to obtain, but a success nonetheless. Normandy was retaken, and the Allies had a foothold in Europe once again. But was the war over after the victory of the invasion? Not even close. Anyone who’s ever glanced at a history book knows that the war in Europe stretched on for another year. There wasn’t even time to take much of a breather. Get through one obstacle so you can take on the next. Keep moving, keep pushing forward. In a lot of ways, the war was a much harder, much bigger fight after the invasion of Normandy than it was before.
Our Christian lives operate the same way. God launched a massive campaign to rescue those he loves and succeeded, but that’s only the beginning. We’ve still got the rest of the war to finish off. The reality of the Christian life is that we’re living somewhere between the landing on the beaches of Normandy and the dancing in the street of VE Day.
The Bible is full of teaching supporting this reality. Jesus preached on hardship, persecution, and struggle in the same breath as salvation so regularly it freaked people out by the thousands. The disciples lived out that reality and their encouragements to believers to come is evident in verses like James 1:12 “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
It’s entirely possible for us to live in a situation of assured victory and still have long, difficult battles ahead.
Struggling, hurting, enduring hardships of life are not indications that you’ve somehow messed up in becoming a Christian. After all, we’re not serving a God that operates on a merit and reward system. He’s not looking at you, tallying up some score, and adjusting the difficulty of your life according to how pleased or displeased he is. God does not use us for what we can do, he uses us in spite of it. So living a life with human hardship is less an indication of personal shortcoming and more a reminder of how broken this world is. It doesn’t mean you’re failing, it means you’re fighting.
So if life’s hardship is non-negotiable for everyone despite having Christ, what are we to do?
We have to stay sharp.
Imagine if after the Allies landed successfully in France they were so shocked by the carnage and hardship of war that they just sat down and gave up? Thank goodness they didn’t. The victory of the invasion was too valuable to the war effort to lose that momentum. The case is no different for Christian living. Fortunately, we just aren’t powerful enough to derail the mission of God, but if we want to be active participants in his story we simply have to stay sharp. We have to stay engaged. We have to keep fighting no matter how tough life seems. So straighten up, put your helmet back on, and get ready to do some more battle. God doesn’t intend this war to go on forever and you will see the end of hardship. That much is guaranteed no matter how hard it is to endure now. VE-Day is coming.
And by the way, God isn’t ignorant about what we go through. He knows. He sees. There is absolutely no struggle on earth that God isn’t intimately aware of. Truthfully, he sees our struggles far clearer than we do. For him, it’s not just the trial of war after Normandy. He sees VE-Day, and he can’t wait to get us there.
Romans 8:18: “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”
The war may be hard now, but God’s gone ahead and told us the ending. He wins. Carry on, soldier. We’ve got a job to do.
Let’s find some joy,