We want so badly to know Jesus. We study His word and chase after His heart. Yet sometimes I think we build expectations in our own hearts and minds as to who He is, and what our lives should look like when we follow Him. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is, Jesus never promised that life would be pretty, He just promised that He would go before us and walks with us.
I often have to remind myself that God’s ways are higher than my own. I desire financial security, happiness, success, health, and a dozen other things in my life. When one of those things falls through for me, I immediately feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under my feeble legs. This is the danger of expecting things from Jesus that were never promised to us.
The following are just a few things that Jesus never promised:
A Life Without Suffering
Life has a way of beating us down. Whether we are in a season of hardship, or have carried a burden with us for years, some days just feel a little too much. In addition, unfortunately life has a tendency of hitting us with everything at once.
As soon as I enter a season of life riddled with hardships, I tend to flip flop between leaning into God and being angry with Him. Part of me trusts His plan and senses His presence, but the other part of me is outraged that God would let any kind of hardship touch me. Has He forgotten me? Does He not care? Then I have to remind myself, Jesus never promised me an easy life. In fact, he said,
In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NIV
The times in my life where I have suffered most are the times when I have felt closest to Christ, clinging to Him in every second. In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan tells the story of a missionary held hostage by the Taliban in 2007. During the time that he and 23 other Christians were imprisoned, they chose to surrender their lives to God proclaiming that they were willing to die for His glory. Those who lived to be released found that they actually missed being imprisoned! They missed the relationship with Christ that comes with being stripped of everything, facing death.
When I read this story, I was astounded. That is the kind of faith I want. I want to welcome suffering knowing that the deep, deep peace of Christ comes with it.
Money stresses me out to no end. No matter how much we budget and plan there never seems to be enough. I always cringe a little bit when someone tells me “God will provide the money”. I believe that He can and I believe that often He does. However, sometimes we need to let go of the need to have, and rest in the truth that God is with us regardless.
I am reminded some days that there are people around the world with nothing, people with not even money for food, which are starving to death. Does Jesus not love them? Is He not with Him?
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25 NIV
Did you read what I read? “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes”? Jesus has more for us in life than even our most basic needs. There is more to life than even food, clothes, and shelter. Can we cling to that? Can we let Him be all that we need? In our darkest hours, when we face even death, can He alone be enough for us?
In the Spring issue of Deliberate Magazine, I wrote about my dear friend Joanna who is battling cancer. Her journey has taught me many things about Christ, but the greatest has been that our health has nothing to do with His goodness. It may seem obvious enough, of course God doesn’t want us to suffer in sickness, right? Nevertheless, how many of us can say that we believe our health isn’t His top priority?
I am guilty of this as well. Having suffered with some debilitating stomach problems for over a year now, I can honestly say that I have questioned God’s goodness in the midst of my ailments. Does He not hear me? Does He not care that I am hurting? Yet, it is in those moments where I am able to look beyond my own self, glimpsing Jesus in the midst of all the yuck, that I realize it is not all about me.
There is something bigger going on here guys, something bigger than our health. Jesus brings a different kind of life, beyond anything that we can imagine.
His Followers Would Be Perfect
I do not know about you but I need this reminder everyday. I am a mess and a half and no matter how hard I try, I always will be. But thankfully for me (and all of you like me), Jesus never claimed that His followers would be perfect. We are all human and we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
This includes pastors and other spiritual leaders. They are human too are they not? In fact, when we look at Jesus’ very own disciples, those closest too Him, we see this without any doubt. Peter, closer to Jesus than any of us have ever been, was a mess and a half just like the rest of us. He even denied knowing Jesus three times!
So you see, we all need to be humbled, we all fall short, and we all need Christ to lead us in every moment.
We Will Be Loved By The World
Unfortunately, following Jesus has not left me loved and adored by the whole universe, and honestly, that is not the point anyway. Crazy though it may seem, following Jesus is actually not about us. In John 15:18, Jesus speaks to His disciples, reminding us,
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19 NIV
I badly want to be loved by the world. I struggle with wanting to fit in, wanting to find my place in this world, wanting to be noticed. Then I stop and think, is that what I really want? Do I really want to be loved by the world and separated from my heavenly Father?
The world promises us many things that God does not, but ultimately those things leave us feeling empty. Christ alone can fill us and He alone can save us.