There Is No Shortcut in Following Jesus
Being a Christian doesn't automatically make life easier, but it does give us hope for better.
Life would be easier if I had cheat codes, if I could just type in some secret words and the magical solutions to my problem would appear. But the thing about cheat codes is that they make the game too easy. Boring. Meaningless. Unfulfilling.
If you skip the levels on Ocarina of Time to get to the boss, what’s the point? The best part of the game is the adventuring, the learning, the puzzle-solving and the discovery, the satisfaction when you hear the little jingle that means you’ve solved a tricky mystery. If you increase your productivity in Starcraft or make yourself invincible, the whole purpose of the game is moot. Plus, if you’re me—someone who can’t even look up a step in a walkthrough without feeling like I’ve betrayed myself and the game—you feel guilty for doing so.
I remember hearing counselors at Bible camp telling kids their lives would be great if they just “said the prayer and accepted Jesus into their hearts.” Hearing this bothers me to no end. Jesus said “Come, follow me,” not “Come, follow me, and I will make your life easy. And your time on earth will be a frolicking among rainbows and unicorns.”
Following Jesus isn’t supposed to be easy.
Telling myself that actually makes it easier for me, because sometimes I feel pressure and guilt for struggling with issues that come up in my life. “I’m going through depression? I must not have a good enough relationship with God” is an all-too common thought for believers. “I’m struggling because someone challenged my faith? There must be something wrong with my relationship with God, because I don’t feel like I said the right thing” might be another. Or perhaps, “I’m barely making enough money to pay rent? God must not love me.”
I could go on. But being a Christian comes with its own unique set of challenges, and I shouldn’t feel like I am doing something wrong when they happen.
My favorite Bible passage is James 1, which talks about what to do when facing troubles. That means we are expected to face problems. God isn’t necessarily going to take them away. There are other verses, like Acts 14:22, that also tell us we will go through hardships to enter the kingdom of God, and Luke 14:25-33, which talks about the cost of following Christ.
Jesus lightens the burden of our sins and gives rest to our souls (Matthew 11:28-29) in that we have someone else to rely on and pray to, someone who looks after us. But until He comes again, our physical bodies are still going to have a rough time in this world, because the world is full of evil. Bad stuff happens.
Having every problem solved for me would cheat me out of growing, out of experiencing, out of building a relationship with God.
Sometimes, Jesus does take away a problem or ease a burden (He’s answered my prayer for rent every single month). But more often than not, I have to go through the process of pain and struggle. And that’s all right, because He never promised otherwise. He told me being a Christian would be hard, and I chose to follow Him anyway, because I believe what He offers is so much better than any hardship that comes with it. Jesus doesn’t give me cheat codes, and I’m OK with that.