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It’s Not Supposed to be This Way


For many of us, we have been Christians for our whole lives - at least since we were of an age to at least understand a little bit about what faith is. For many others it may not have been quite so early, but they have still spent the vast majority of their lives as Christians. As it happens, throughout our lives sometimes we are more active and devout than at other times, and these peaks and valleys are normal in anybody’s relationship with God. Sometimes we are on fire, sometimes we are going through the motions. Often these periods happen largely due to the circumstances of life - our secular contentment has a huge impact on our spiritual contentment, which is why it is so easy to have a “mountain top” spiritual experience when you separate yourself from the secular world, via a camp or retreat or something of that nature. We are pretty fickle people that way, but God made us this way.

Pain and tragedy can have equal but opposite effects depending on the situation - sometimes they bring you closer to God, sometimes we allow them to drive a wedge between us. When we are dealing with tragedy or other severe difficulty, it is not difficult to understand our changing moods toward Christ - he is the giver and the healer and the one we run to when we feel like we are lost, and often we expect comfort in the way we expect it - which is not always how He helps us.

One of my all time favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. One of the themes throughout this movie is the theme of hope - how some in the prison believe that hope is what keeps them alive and motivated, while others believe hope is the poison that makes captivity so difficult. Often I agree with both positions, but I don’t think it is hope that is negative in itself, but rather disappointment - hope that is never realized. Disappointment can be devastating for many reasons, and I think we often gloss over it because we haven’t really lost anything that we had - just the possibility of something.

When I place my hope in something - whether it is an opportunity or an outcome in which I am heavily invested, when that hope is lost it is nearly impossible to recover. Sometimes that hope is placed in something we really want - a promotion, an award, a degree of success; while sometimes it is for something we desperately need - a job, healing, restoration of a relationship, or a change in life situation. In either case, disappointment becomes the hammer blow that threatens to break us, and we do not treat it like the tragedy that it often can be.

Hope is an important thing - it  is a foundation of our faith, hoping in things unseen and hoping in the promises of God. We sing songs about it - “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” and “You have broken every chain, there’s salvation in your name - Jesus Christ, my living hope.” 

So what about when our hopes are crushed? We’re Christians - it’s not supposed to be this way! Sometimes the most difficult time in life is coming to the realization that things are not going to immediately get better, or your fortune is not going to immediately turn around. These are the times when we throw our hands into the air and wonder why we even try - our fatalism takes over, and we decide then that everybody needs to know that we are miserable and that’s that.

Imagine how the disciples and followers of Jesus felt as He hung on the cross. There was their hope - everything they believed in, and they saw the world crush Him. Although they had been told multiple times that this was not the end and that it would be to God’s glory, I cannot imagine the gut punch of seeing your hope so easily dispatched by the world.

If we follow the example of Paul, he does quite the opposite of my own tendencies. He enacted a ministry with a ton of success, but there was so much heartache and setback and difficulty along the way that it is amazing he ever went anywhere. And what did he write to the Philippians 3:13-14? “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Press on.

How do we press on? Do we live absorbed in a lost opportunity? Do we do the absolute minimum because our situation is not ideal? It seems to me that to press on - pressing - this requires effort and intentionality. It seems to me that we cannot be pressing multiple directions. It seems to me to press is to apply oneself entirely - pressing means to do more than push, more than walk - it is to toil and to move the world with us as we go - provided we are pressing on toward the right goal - the prize of God’s calling. And to press, we cannot do it alone - here is the place where we need God even more central in our lives.

I am sorry if you are disappointed. I understand disappointment. But I also know that a time is coming for you - just like it is coming for me - where our sorrow will turn to dancing. Jesus promised that if we remain in Him, our joy will be complete. Hold onto that - it is sure to not disappoint.