Today I’ve got a devotion running on Encouragement for Today titled “When Following Gets Hard.” Welcome, if you are visiting from there.
As I re-read my devotion in preparation for writing this blog post, I wondered what I was thinking when I titled it. I mean, really … when is following Jesus not hard?
This life that Jesus calls me to is completely opposite of how I would choose to act on my own. Well, I guess it’s not completely opposite. If someone made me a Boston Cream Pie I would be happy whether or not I was following Jesus. It’s really only in the hard things that following Jesus is hard (duh, right?) … which is about 90% of life for me. Let me give you some examples:
- It seems my natural reaction to being offended is to retaliate, usually in an “I’ll show you” sort of way.
- My natural reaction to having my decisions questioned is defensiveness.
- My natural reaction to being mistreated is to withdraw, and mentally plot a revenge … which of course, I’ll never exact. However, when reading the New Testament, I learn I’m accountable for my thoughts … so once again, I’m off course.
- And then there’s the whole fear thing … fear that I’ll fail, fear that I’ll look foolish, fear that it won’t be “perfect,” fear that I’ll offend someone. Fear makes me want to stop before I ever start.
If I’m ever going to follow Jesus fully, I’ve got to learn to deal with my initial reactions. I’ll be honest, I don’t have the strength within myself to do this. If left to myself and my “natural” instincts I would have given up long ago, and retreated into a safe world. But God’s got too much to do in this world for me to give up or give in to what’s easy, safe, comfortable and self-gratifying.
The only way to face the hard parts of life is by allowing God’s Spirit to dwell in me. But first I have to confess that I don’t have what it takes to be the woman God wants me to be. And between you and me, that took me years to admit. It took years of being a Christian and thinking I had enough self-control to get things “right.” The problem is it’s a bit like trying to keep a beach ball under water. You can only hold it down for so long and eventually it’s going to pop up. And with my natural responses, they pop up when I fall back into my self-controlling patterns.
The more I admit I’m a pauper (spiritually and emotionally) without God, the more His Spirit is able to work in my life. But that take a gut level honesty that’s hard to get to as well.
So I spend a lot of time praying something like this … God I can’t do this. I can’t forgive (or whatever the challenge is) like You want me to forgive in my own strength. I need Your strength right now.
Or I pray like this … God, I’m really afraid right now. I don’t think I can do this without You. I need Your peace and confidence because mine isn’t enough.
And can I just tell you how faithful our Father is???!!! 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” I’m living proof that God’s Spirit can change someone from the inside out. But I’ve got LOTS of changing left to do too.
Following God is really hard. Let me clarify that. It’s hard for some of us (especially the controlling types) if we are going to follow God fully. There’s just so much self-sacrificing that must happen and so much faith that is requires. And none of that comes naturally to me.
But there is a good side to all of this hard stuff. God is just waiting for me to admit it’s hard. And I imagine He kind of sighs in relief too, that He finally gets to step in and help.
I know some of you are facing really hard things today. We live in a broken world filled with broken people. And while I can’t even pretend to give you an easy answer, I can tell you with confidence that God’s Spirit in you makes a difference. Maybe your circumstances won’t change, but God can change you.
Thank you for joining me today. I’ll be praying for every comment today if you want to share anything.
In His love,
P.S. I’m happy to announce that Elise, posting a comment on September 7 at 10:56 a.m. is the winner (selected in a random number drawing) of Karen’s book, “A Life that Says Welcome” and the Target gift card. Elise, I’ll be sending you a personal email today. Thank you to everyone who entered!