Most Americans try to find ways to make chores easier and life more comfortable. And we've been quite inventive. Trying to minimize our pain and maximize our pleasure is not bad. But when we expect life to be easy because we're Christians, we set ourselves up to believe the lie that God, like a gadget, is there to make our lives easier.
But life is not easy. Even for Christians, it's often downright difficult. Accepting that fact, however, will make life less difficult for us.
That sounds like a contradiction, doesn't it?
Jesus told His disciples to expect trouble in this life. In the next breath, He told them to "take heart." Why? Because He has overcome the world and wants to impart His peace to us.
A song by Annie Johnson Flint, "What God Hath Promised," has spoken to my heart in times of trouble. It goes like this:
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, troubles and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.
Twice orphaned, Annie Johnson Flint was forced to give up her career in teaching after only two years when severe arthritis crippled her and put her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. To endure the long days of suffering, she took up a pen into her twisted and stiff fingers and wrote many encouraging poems, articles, and letters. This poem was set to music and has appeared in many hymnals, blessing many people over the years.
As Annie Johnson Flint learned, if we don't face and accept the truth that life is difficult, we will become angry, bitter, and confused, thinking God has failed us. She chose to allow her suffering to make her better not bitter. And she became a blessing to many people.
True Christian living demands tremendous sacrifice, and that often causes pain along with the joy. Romans 8:28 promises that God will "work all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." God doesn't promise us a rose garden, but He does promise to be with us in our troubles, giving us His strength and peace, and to use the struggles to make us into the image of His Son (v. 29).
Life is not easy. It is tough and full of hardships and frustrations. Instead of letting trouble make us sour and bitter, let's use it as a stepping stone to becoming sweeter and better. As the saying goes, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
The third book in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy of historical Christian fiction, Beside Still Waters, is now at the publishers and will be available in the spring. Watch for further information. Beside Still Waters continues the saga of the loves, tragedies, and second chances of a Norwegian immigrant family who must battle the beautiful but often dangerous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska. Can Violet allow the trials and suffering in her life to make her better not bitter?