“Life is pain.” – The Princess Bride
We live in a world of instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it now. But there’s a danger in getting comfortable with (and then beginning to expect) quick fixes. Unfortunately, when things aren’t easy or quick, we can be prone toward anger and we can often be guilty of taking our anger out on those around us. Our discouragement and frustration usually end in giving up (failure to overcome our struggles) and giving in (isolating and indulging ourselves to deal with the failure).
Our reaction to hardship in life reveals the biggest idol we all struggle with: a pain- and problem-free life.
On the surface, this seems like it shouldn’t be an idol. It seems like a good thing. And we certainly don’t want to have a pain- and problem-FILLED life. So what’s the problem here?
The problem is that when we fail to surrender this desire for ease and comfort, we can be guilty of making decisions based on whether we believe it will increase our ease and comfort or not, rather than based on God’s goodness, love, and ability to provide for us regardless of our circumstances.
When we have a goal of living a pain- and problem-free life, we begin to do whatever it takes to get it – whatever the cost.
When I look back on my life and the moments that I believe shaped me into who I am today, I have to admit that those moments were some of the most painful experiences of my life. And yet, God used those times of suffering to make me into the person I am today.
We all have moments in life that define us, and unfortunately, they’re often related to suffering of some kind.
As much as we’d like to think that it’s the mountain top experiences that shape us, that’s rarely the case. Rather, God tends to use the valleys of our lives to grow us, to change us, and to make us into the image of Christ, and it’s those very moments that enable us to experience the joy of the mountain top.
The valley is dark, scary, and painful. Sometimes the suffering is a direct result of our own sinful choices. Sometimes it’s the result of the sinful choices of others. And sometimes it is simply the result of living in a fallen world. Regardless of the cause, the way we respond to resistance, pain, and difficulty reveals what we truly believe in the deepest part of us. In those moments, we are faced with some of the hardest questions we will ever face:
Do I really believe God is good?
Do I really believe God loves me?
Do I really believe God is in control?
Do I really believe God is all I need?
MAKING GOD ENOUGH
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the saying, “You won’t know God is all you need until God is all you have.”
Unfortunately, it’s a common saying because, for the most part, it’s true. At least, the idea behind it is true. But the phrasing itself lends itself to the idea that you won’t really know if God is enough until you’ve lost everything. And while it’s true that you won’t know it by experience until that point, I’d say that you can know that God is enough before you lose everything. In fact, that’s actually the goal.
If we wait until we experience the loss of what we love to discover if God is enough, we will find that God is not enough. Instead, we must learn how to let God satisfy us in the here and now so that when the times of crisis come, we already know that He will be enough and He will carry us through. Otherwise, when we experience the pain and suffering that is inevitable in life, we will instead turn to ourselves or others to make us feel better, following the path of idolatry we talked about last week.
The fact of the matter is that what you believe in the light is what will be proven in the dark. If you want God to be enough for you then, you must make Him enough now.
We all like to talk about God being all that we need, but the sad reality is that while we are good at talking about God being all we need, many of us are living as though God is not all we need.
Yes, God is enough. But if we’re really going to be happy, we also need this relationship.
Yes, God is enough. But if we’re really going to be content, we also need to live in this particular neighborhood.
Yes, God is enough. But if we’re really going to show kindness to those around us, they need to show us respect back.
Yes, God is enough. But when hurt and disappointment enter my life, we really need to be able to distract from it by indulging in junk food, TV, shopping, or maybe even a substance.
Yes, God is enough.
I think one of the biggest blind spots many of us possess in life is idolatry. After all, we don’t often see people worshiping blocks of wood or statues of gold, so we find it easy to brush off idolatry as something from Biblical times that’s not really an issue anymore.
The result? At worst, we can be guilty of dismissing idolatry as a modern-day issue altogether. At best, we may find ourselves resorting to the Sunday-school teaching of associating idols with things such as video games, TV, and money. And while to a certain extent that can be true, the truth is that the most dangerous idols we worship are not physical objects.
Hope is a funny thing. It can lead to excitement, joy, and peace. But hope can also lead to despair, discouragement, and defeat.
Hope fulfilled is the best thing in the world.
Hope disappointed is the worst thing in the world.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi,
In a word: passionate.