I think some Christians are under the common misconception that following God will somehow make all their problems go away. I even have one of those signs up in my house that says, “Don’t tell your God you have a big problem, tell your problem you have a big God.” This is true…but…as anyone continues and matures in their walk with Christ, it becomes more and more evident that it’s not that simple. In fact, the Bible promises us trials throughout our lives as followers of Christ, even because we are followers of Christ.
But what about those Christians that seem like they have it all together. Those who never miss a beat, never seem depressed, always joyful, overflowing with words of wisdom and apparent abundance of faith. Where does that come from? Why are they so different from those Christians we all know and sometimes avoid who seem to never have it together. Those who always seem to be in the valley with no hope of being rescued.
I’d love to say that I have all the answers and that, if you do such and such, you too can be free of trials and heartache. But the fact is I don’t. I have mood swings with the best of them, all of which are of varying lengths and severity. What I do have is a strong desire for growth paired with some amazing insights I’ve received through different teachings.
I heard a sermon once about spiritual warfare. I think this can seem like a foreign concept to many Christians, at times including myself, because we picture it like those physical battle scenes in the movies instead of the spiritual battle within ourselves. We think it’s this external fight between the heavenly realms and the demonic forces at work in the world. Trust me, that day will come. The more imminent threat is the battle against ourselves. The battle between who we were and who we are meant to be. I battle myself ALL THE TIME. What I want to do I don’t and what I don’t want to do I do…and so on (self proclaimed Paul here). The part of the sermon that stood out to me most was when the Pastor talked about how a person can walk into church a sad, lonely, depressed unbeliever, give their life to Christ, and walk out a sad, lonely, depressed Christian. We expect God to do an amazing, miraculous, immediate work in us (and He can, and He sometimes does) but we forget that we are actually called to play an active roll in our own transformation. We actually have to go to battle against ourselves. This shift in my understanding of spiritual warfare was very eye opening. It completely changed my perspective on the inner workings of my head/heart/spirit. It didn’t stop the battles (darn it!!), but the more small victories I have against myself, the more effective I become.
My absolute all time favorite verse of the Bible is Philippians 1:6, which says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The reason this is my favorite verse is because I am never content to stay the same…thank you Jesus, hallelujah, AMEN! Believe me when I tell you I am not even close to the person I once was, but I am also NOWHERE NEAR who I want to be. Nor will I be until the day of Christ’s return. What this verse does NOT say to me is that I can sit back, relax, and wait for God to do all the work. In every miracle of the Bible, Jesus asked people what they wanted from Him (as if He didn’t already know), and then He instructed them in some manner to take action in their own healing. We must be active participants in living out our faith.
A small group I was attending several years ago started an Andy Stanley series on perseverance. The overall message was that perseverance is the difference between a mature and an immature christian. How will you ever know what it’s like to trust God if you never have a reason to trust Him? How will you ever know what it’s like to rely on God if you can always rely on your own abilities?
James 1:2-4;12 states, “Consider it pure joy, my bothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,” 12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him;.”
“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. ” (Romans 5:2l-4)
Several years ago my husband and I were experiencing some of our worst financial hardships so I went to our Pastor for prayer. Not prayer that our financial difficulties would end, because I knew they eventually would, but prayer that my husband and I would learn whatever it was God was trying to teach us through this difficult situation. Why? Because I knew the problem itself was a secondary symptom of something deeper and I didn’t want to experience these kinds of trials more than I had to in order for God to do the work in me that needed to be done. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I knew this growth would come to fruition in me eventually. How long it took was up to me and how long it took me to get the bigger picture.
So this brings me back to the difference between the two types of christians. The ones who seem like they have it all together don’t actually have it all together. They just have the right perspective when it comes to their circumstances, be it on the mountain top or in the valley. They’re the ones who have persevered through enough trials to know that their ever changing circumstances, or their fleeting emotional reactions to the same, do not dictate the depth of their faith, peace, joy, hope, or trust in God.
Do not waste your difficulties by simply surviving them. Keep your eyes wide open to what God wants to accomplish in and through your life, your circumstances, your trials, and your victories. Remember that your “success” should not be measured by whether or not you experience trials, not even by facing those trials like the “have it all together christian” we all want to be, but instead by your willingness to persevere in all circumstances, through every emotional pendulum swing, relying on the foundational truths of your salvation and the promises of Christ. Believe Him when He says He will finish the good work he started in you.