Last week I had a new casual worker with me, ‘C’, a guy who showed up at our Food4all project in Yanchep. He is homeless and looking to get back on his feet.
As we were working we began chatting about faith. ‘Why is it that so many people who follow Jesus do it tough? Why is there so much suffering? Why did so many of the big names in the Bible do it tough?’
‘Good question,’ I said ‘what do you think?’
‘I dunno. It’s why I’m asking you!’
As I reflected on our ‘Bible heroes’ he’s on the money. Many of them suffered or did it tough in various ways. The Hebrews 11 ‘hall of fame’ tells of many of these and concludes with what we would consider ‘horror stories’ of living hard. And the writer says, ‘the world was not worthy of them’.
And of course then there’s Jesus… he suffered a bit…
Suffering and struggling is central to our identity. To follow Jesus is to take up a cross and enter into ‘life to the full’, but also a life of self denial and sacrifice. These two things go hand in hand or not at all.
So when I hear that it is Gods plan for you to be prosperous, wealthy and to have no difficulties I do more than cringe. I inwardly vomit because this is the antithesis of the life we are called to.
I have no problem affirming that God wants to bring contentment, peace and purpose to our lives but somehow the expectation of success, wealth and eternal happiness this side of eternity just doesn’t resonate with the overall story of humankind as we read about it in scripture.
Why do we do it tough?
Because we live in a world that is geared against us – that calls us to self centredness and to enter a rat race. Those who choose not to play or choose to march to the beat of a different drum – such as the kingdom of God – are going to hit obstacles, road blocks and difficulty, as well as much joy. We are ‘in this world but not of it’ to quote a wise man so we will feel like square pegs in round holes from time to time and that is good.