Surprise: Life is Difficult

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1 Kings 17:15-18 (NIV)

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

CONSIDER THIS

ME: THIS IS THE WAY:
YOU: FROM GLORY TO GLORY!

This is not a story about rain. I wonder how you might fill in that blank in your own life with your great challenge and need right about now. This is not a story about cancer or bankruptcy or miracles or death or a cure or a financial lift and on it goes. This is a story about God and the journey from glory to glory, come what may. This way we reference—from glory to glory—is Jesus. He is the glory of God and as he is in us through thick and thin, as we are becoming the glory of God.

Something tells me I’m preaching to the choir when I say what I am about to say. Brace for it:

Life is difficult.

Life is a long series of unending problems, unforeseen difficulties, endless struggles, and unrelenting hardships. There—I said it. Remember when I said the Bible is not the story of God with the interruption of human wickedness but the story of human wickedness intervened on by God? Same with life. Life is not the story of ease and comfort and smooth sailing with the occasional interruption of a problem or difficulty. No, life is the story of difficulty, struggle, hardship, and even suffering with the constant intervention of Jesus. Life is difficult. Jesus is here.

Just as sure as this happens:

So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Then we get this:

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.

Life is difficult. Miraculous survival of the family followed by the untimely death of a child.

Here’s what I don’t yet understand about myself. Despite knowing this irrefutable law of the universe, I continue to be surprised by almost every problem, difficulty, struggle, and hardship that comes along. I think it is because deep down in the echo chambers of my soul the ancient whisper of Eden tells me it was not supposed to be this way. This leads me to try and construct my own pseudo Eden by trying to wall out problems or to make enough money to keep difficulties at bay, or to develop strategies to temporarily escape the pain of struggles and medicate my hardships with a thousand distractions.

In my early twenties, a friend passed a book to me by M. Scott Peck. Many of you know where this is headed. The book: The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth. So for starters, beware of books touting new psychologies of love, traditional values, and spiritual growth. I remember appreciating the book and going on to read several of his other works, all of which were insightful and helpful. Like so many self-help authors, they tend to be long on diagnostics and short on solutions while offering lots of prescriptions to think different and try harder—filling us with aspirational energy while never quite getting to actualizing realities. Said another way—self can’t help. If you haven’t read it, you don’t need to read it. I’ll give you the gem of the book here, which comes in the very first paragraph.

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Thirty-something years later, I still see the basic truth here and yet it remains trapped in its own circular Zen based logic. So . . . life is difficult. Check. We accept it. Check. We truly understand and accept it. Check. Life remains difficult. Check. The fact that life is difficult still matters. Why? Because we have not transcended it. Why? Because acceptance is not transcendence. Acceptance is just that—acceptance. I suppose if you are the Dalai Lama and you have mastered the illusive practice of detachment and are something of a master in Zen meditation techniques you can experience some approximation of transcendence, but it will be fleeting and will depend on your ability to maintain all the functions required to stay in such a place and perhaps moving to a Tibetan monastery.

There is a better way. It is not actually a way or method or approach at all. He is a person. He goes by the name of Jesus of Nazareth—The Messiah—The Lord of Heaven and Earth. Here’s how he says it.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Here’s how I would say it:

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. But life’s greatest truth of all is this: Jesus Christ of Nazareth—The Messiah—The Lord of Heaven and Earth, has overcome all that makes life difficult: sin, death, Satan, indeed the world. Once we behold this truth who is Jesus, life does not cease to be difficult but we become empowered through an abiding union with him to transcend life’s difficulties.

Let’s be honest, though. Jesus says it better:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

This is the way—from glory to glory.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, how we thank you for your son, Jesus, who better than showing us the way is Th Way Himself. Thank you for the way Jesus is so kind to keep waking us up to this reality of trouble and problems and that we should not be surprised by them. Thank you even more for the way Jesus keeps waking us up to his overcoming presence in us. Holy Spirit, we need to be transformed into this mindset and mentality, that our lives might take on the very transcendent glory of Jesus—not despite our difficulties but because of them. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.

THE QUESTION

Do you tend to think/expect the normal state of life should be ease and comfort and smooth sailing, or difficulties, challenges, problems and choppy seas?

Do you tend to think/expect the normal state of life should be ease and comfort and smooth sailing, or difficulties, challenges, problems and choppy seas?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I believe that Scripture reveals that because of the Fall, we mortals are born into a cosmic battle between the kingdom of God and the forces of darkness. I also believe that God had mercy on our fallen nature and therefore sent his beloved Son to free us from the captivity of the power of Satan to deceive us into a false perception of this life. We long to experience the life we were originally created to live, perfect peace with God, humanity and creation. Without perfect union with the Trinity, that Life is impossible. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. To evaluate whether life is ease and comfort or difficulties and problems is to dissect life with our human perspective by using the principles of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We call on our own understanding to sort our circumstances into the categories of either good or evil. We embrace the idea that comfort is good, and that difficulties are evil. But the Bible, speaking from the tree of life, presents a transcendent point of view: “ALL things work together for good to those who love God . . .” and “Count it ALL joy when you fall into diverse temptations.” The “normal” (fallen) state of life is to live from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Spirit-led state of life is to live from the tree of life. Christ-followers are called to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” and to trust that He is allowing the situations and circumstances that come into our life so that they can craft us into His image, from glory to glory (even when it feels like life is falling apart).

  3. “I was once one way. I became a different way. What happened in-between is Jesus, THE WAY.” This is an ad-libbed quote from the Chosen series. Me in a nutshell. This doesn’t stop life’s curve balls, fastballs, or knuckleballs flying at me. Some may temporarily find their target, but by taking them captive in obedience to Him, we pick them up, toss them up, and knock them out of the park.
    Praise be to God!

  4. JD – a nit.
    your emphasis is a bit on the wrong syllable. sure, life is tuff. but the Good news is as you have cited in John 16: 33 ( and i love the AMP rendering of this verse – see CAPS)
    (AMP) John 16: 33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I HAVE DEPRIVED IT OF POWER TO HARM YOU AND HAVE CONQUERED IT FOR YOU.]

    we faith – not in circumstances, but in the WORD which overcomes circumstances.

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