I close my eyes and imagine our picture-perfect life. There is more money, more leisure time, a bigger house, bigger bank accounts, and ease. Gone are the days of trials and survival mode. “This is the best life,” I think to myself as I smile and take a sip of sparkling water poolside in my backyard paradise.
This fantasy world is far from my reality. My actual life is way less glamorous and full of difficult and painful moments. The mundane of the every day is full of unanswered emails and text messages, dirty diapers, sibling conflicts, and work pressures. And yet, it is also full of joy because I have confidence in knowing that God has placed me exactly where I am supposed to be in this season.
Our American dreams are full of more—more money, more vacations, more material goods, more social gatherings, and more fun. We are averse to hardship and conditioned for comfort. I’ll never forget striking up a conversation with a ride-share driver from Africa several years ago and learning more about his life. He said, “Americans don’t like to be uncomfortable. They don't like to do hard things.” Ouch. His words were concise and correct. How often do we choose the easy way out in order to preserve our comfort and peace?
The World’s Way
Our dreams, when not surrendered to our Heavenly Father, can have motivations that are not rooted in truth. We may take action in an area purely to make more money in order to acquire more things. Or we may not obey the Lord because we are afraid of an awkward or difficult situation. The world says:
- Take care of yourself and focus on your needs.
- Follow your dreams and don’t look back.
- Pursue money and fame.
We think we know what we need, but God’s ways are higher than ours (Is. 55:8-9). His kingdom turns things upside down. In our perfect world, we want to pursue a life that keeps us comfortable and avoids risk. We think God should lead us down the path of least resistance, but the opposite is usually the case. When we walk with God, he invites us to a life that is built through dependence upon him. The only way we can depend on him is to be made weak.
Our culture scorns weakness. We say to children, “Be a big kid. You don’t need to cry,” or, “You’re okay. Just calm down.” In our haste to move past the discomfort of big feelings they are experiencing, we just want them to be okay. But what happens when we are experiencing our own big feelings, and we don’t know where to turn? What happens when the dreams we had for our lives begin to fall apart?
Our culture feeds us the lie that we need to take care of ourselves before looking out for others. While it is good to honor our bodies and place proper boundaries in our lives, the way of Jesus is quite different than that of the self-care and self-love movement.
The Savior’s Way
Our Savior humbly came to this earth without much fanfare. He was born in a manger to two ordinary people who did not come from families of great wealth or distinction. His hometown was an object of derision. Yet he walked with great humility and told his disciples that he came to serve and not be served (Matt. 20:28).
- Take up your cross and deny yourself (Matt. 16:24–26).
- Follow me (Mark 8:34).
- Seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).
Many of us are so afraid of being uncomfortable and suffering for Christ that our faith in him is rendered powerless by our unbelief in his unfailing and steadfast character. If we truly believe that Jesus is who he says he is, our lives will look completely different. Not because they are absent from trials, but because in the midst of uncomfortable or hard circumstances, our hearts are confident in who he is and full of an unexplainable peace and joy.
Enduring in the Light of His Glory and Grace
I don’t know about you, but I can get upset with the Lord when he asks me to do things that result in my discomfort and stretching. I like to think that he owes me, when in fact, he owes me nothing. My righteous acts are filthy rags to him, and every good and perfect gift is from him (Is. 64:6 NIV; James 1:17). There is nothing I have done to deserve anything he chooses to give me.
When faced with decisions that require us to sacrificially give of our time, money, or resources—emotional, mental, or physical—we are not giving anything that Jesus himself has not already given us. He led the way in humility, grace, and compassion. He told the disciples in John 16:33 that “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The reality is that as we walk with him, he will help us to endure all that we face. As the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” says, when we turn our eyes upon Jesus, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”
My husband and I have been foster parents for almost three years now. This hard calling has completely changed our entire lives—for the better. Can I make a confession to you, friend? I’ve often lamented to my husband, saying things like, “I wish people knew how hard this was. There are so many things I wish I could say on Instagram that I have to keep to myself, but if they knew, maybe we could have more help. No one knows or understands what we are walking through.” It hurts my heart to write those words because they come from a heart that was missing the whole point.
Our True Reward
Friend, Jesus is the reward. Paul stated that to know Christ, we must become like him in his suffering (Phil. 3:10). Knowing him in his suffering is the highest honor and greatest gift we can receive. To know his presence and have his peace is all that we need in order to know abundance. This life is not about obeying in hopes of recognition and prosperity on this side of heaven. Our lives here on earth are about walking in obedience to receive the reward that is in heaven when we hear our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).
Let us be women who walk with him to know him, not to get something from him. May we trust that he is for us and that his ways are good, even in—especially in—the discomfort of obedience. Let us view obedience with delight and not as a duty, holding our hands open to him with surrender and sacrifice.