So here’s a question or actually, really more just a thought / concern……
- God’s promise to us is that we will never face more than we are able to handle or as He also promises, we can do all things in Him who gives us strength so why are so many Christians so overwhelmed, so weary, so exhausted, weak and tired?
- He promises us that in Him, we will produce spiritual fruit, why are so many Christians feeling fruitless?
- He promises us that He shall indeed be found by us if we seek Him, why then are so many Christians voicing that they can’t find Him?
- He promises us that even before we utter a word He hears our prayers and gives answer yet we hear Christians say that God is silent and is not answering.
- He promises us that He will fill us with His peace so why are so many Christians filled with unrest and uncertainty?
1. There is not ONE answer to these questions, there are many possible explanations and all of them are part of the unique answer for each person. This is a reminder that there is no simple formula when it comes to how God works in us. Here are some possible reasons why Christians are not experiencing “life to the full” as Jesus promised [John 10:10].
2. Some people have false expectations of the life of a Jesus follower! There is an illusion out there held by some that life is supposed to get easier when they surrender to Jesus. If the student is like the teacher, we can also expect to face the same kind of struggles as He did.
3. Some people misunderstand the promises of God! If we read Psalm 121, we may get the idea that those who trust in the Lord will never be hurt, or never get lost. But the reality is, many do get hurt, many have even died. Does this mean that God’s promises have failed? Or should we rather say that these promises reflect our ultimate assurance, no matter what happens in this life. We cling to the promise that God hears our prayer, even when it seems that He is silent. At those times, based on the promise, we boldly cry out, “why are You ignoring me?” The promises are not guarantees of an easy life, but assurances to enable us to persevere when life is not easy. And ultimately, each promise will be true, including Psalm 121.
4. The kingdom has not fully come yet! We are surrounded by the powers of darkness, this is why we need the armour of God. The enemy is still prowling around, looking for someone to deceive and devour. Our heart remains tainted by the remnants of sin, and we are in the process of being sanctified… but we’re not there yet. We are under constant attack, and need to daily fortify ourselves in the Lord.
We still face sickness, physical limitations, psychological or mental health issues, abuse, painful memories, economic hardship, uncertainty.
5. We are precisely where we need to be! We remain confident that God is in control, even when He is silent, or we are under attack. We take comfort from the fact that it was the Spirit of God that drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days. Comfort… because that means that we are in the struggle that we are in for a reason… somehow. God is at work in all circumstances to accomplish His purpose – and the reason for this struggle will have untold ripples on many people, beyond what we will ever know or imagine. God sends us into the dark places so that He can shine His light in us, through us, for us and for others.
6. We are being tested and equipped for greater service. God does not tempt us, but He does test us, and it is always for a greater purpose. He is pruning our hearts, revealing our deeper loves and allegiances, our deeper sins and distractions. He is strengthening us through trials, that we can share what we received with others [see 2 Corinthians 1:3-7]. Behind every test from God, the devil lurks, trying to get us to reject God. How we respond to these tests will either draw us closer to God, or drive us further from Him. Seasons of God’s silence, of physical or emotional weakness, of fruitlessness, are times when we need to cling to God desperately (as so many psalms and Jesus’ experience in the wilderness attest). God has not abandoned us (no matter what the devil says), and we need to “wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord” [see Psalm 27].
7. We have not surrendered fully to the Lord. Some of our struggles are self-imposed. If we are hanging on to sinful attitudes or habits (and to some extent we all do), then those will hinder our experience of the full life. True, we will never fully get there in this life, until Christ returns. But we need to start now, with His help, making every effort to add to our faith… [see 2 Peter 1:1-11]. In some cases, we are going through struggles because of decisions we have made, or things that we have failed to do. Our relationship with God is two-directional, rooted in God’s promise to us but also our promise to God. Sometimes we are weak because we have allowed sin to remain in our life [Psalm 32:1-5]. Sometimes God seems silent because we have closed our hearts to Him, or only allow Him certain access, on our own terms. Sometimes we are fruitless because we have been investing the soil of our hearts to grow worthless pleasures. Sometimes we experience uncertainty because we are allowing the seed to be choked out by worldly delights and concerns.
8. There is always some “mystery” here too, simply inexplicable and beyond our ability to figure out. God is God, and we are not.
God’s answer to Job was not an explanation, but a reminder of God’s greatness and goodness. His friends said it was all #7, but I will not say that. Its a combination of God, sin, sanctification, purpose, and self, as well as mystery.
9. What do we do with this? How do we ourselves respond to this mysterious mess? Worship, surrender, humility, hope… the very things that the Psalmists expressed. We need to recover the art of wrestling with God in worship, through expression of both the struggle and the hope, the sorrow and the joy. The struggle is part of the journey, and the ultimate result, if we hang on, is praise, glory and honour for God.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [1 Peter 1:3-7]
10. That we struggle is not a problem, that we doubt is a sign of real life, real faith. We are “Israel”, those who wrestle with God, and with whom God chooses to wrestle. The worse thing that can happen is not that we fight, but that we give up fighting. The thing we need to keep on doing, whether we feel like it or not, is go into our room, be alone with God, and honestly wrestle, weep, cry out to Him.
This is not just the discipline of “quiet time”, this is garden of gethsemane time! God will show up, and He will strengthen us, in His own way, for His own purpose!