I came across a perfectly inspiring article the other day.
“Perfect Christians Wear Me Out” by Robert Schumacher (Source) Here’s part of what Robert wrote:
“You’ve met them. Unfortunately.
Every time you talk to them, their lives just couldn’t be going any better. Their kids are perfect. Their jobs are perfect. Their chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven perfect every time.
Not a spiritual hair is out of place and God has rained down blessings that overflow into every nook and cranny of their existence. Their Facebook and other social media accounts tell you as much every day.
If your Christian life isn’t running on the same smooth rails as theirs, well, it’s because you either have sin in your life or not enough faith. And yes, I actually had one guy tell me this.
Sorry, but these “perfect” Christians wear me out for the simple reason being their performance is all a sham.”
And then Robert goes on to reveal how a Perfect Christian Mother, forgetting she was leaving a voicemail to Robert’s wife, went off “like a civil defense siren” when her kids did or said something in the background.
“What followed… was pure honesty,” Robert writes. When the woman realized she was still being recorded, “Re-enter the sugary, perfect-pitch voice again with a few awkward laughs and an admission of a less-than-ideal day. Gotcha!”
The gist of Robert’s article is that life is not “smooth sailing” nor should it be expected to be without trouble.
That’s. Just. Life.
Life is FULL of troubles. Any Christian who paints the picture that their (insert sugary-sweet voice here) “victorious life in Jesus” is peaches and cream is at best immature or yanking our chain or in gross self-deception.
For goodness sake, Perfect Christian, read your Bible! NO ONE has a perfect, trouble-free life!
Adam and Eve started perfect and look at what happened to their lives. Don’t talk to me about troubles! Do you think you’re going to fare any better?
Do you think Noah’s experience with God was a pleasure cruise? Noah “found favor with the Lord” (Genesis 6:8) because he was “a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries; Noah walked with God.” Blameless among those whom he lived, huh? Yes, Perfect Christian, you are righteous in Jesus. But if “righteous, blameless, walked with God” Noah had trouble, what makes you think you’ll avoid them?
Abraham? Mr. Trust-Credited-To-Him-As-Righteous-By-God? He’s told to sacrifice his son Isaac and he has no idea what God has in mind. According to the Bible, Abraham was convinced he was going to lose his son. God’s promises and any hope for the future will be killed through his own hand by God’s command. Yup. No trouble there. He had to wrestle with how God was going to come through for him and Isaac. I’m sure that didn’t weigh on his mind or rake over his emotions.
What about Jonah, a tried-and-true prophet of Almighty God? Do you think rather than eating sushi Jonah enjoyed riding in it? For three days? In total darkness? Without a watch or Candy Crush or the internet to while away the hours? In whale stomach acid? No trouble there, right?
What about the other “perfect” men and women loved and approved by God? King David, for example – losing a days old firstborn son (2 Samuel 12:13-18), family sexual abuse (2 Samuel 13:11-14), brother killing brother (2 Samuel 13:28-29), a son usurping his throne, David driven into the Wilderness (2 Samuel 15:13-14), and then losing his son in battle (2 Samuel 18:14-15)?
Nope. No troubles to see here. Move along citizen.
The book of Hebrews details a whole list of people who saw troubles on their way to perfection in God’s perfect kingdom, yet never found it in this life. “Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground (Hebrews 11:36-38). All these were people of faith, whose lives are logged in the Hebrews Hall of Faith!
And you think you’re going to avoid troubles?
In life, troubles are a given. Don’t like troubles? Blame our First Parents for “…humans are born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
Jesus taught us, “…each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Yes, Jesus knew, really knew, human troubles because he was human, too. Isaiah described Jesus in advance as “a man of suffering who knew what sickness was” (Isaiah 53:3). Suffering is trouble, don’t you think? Yes, Jesus had troubles. He suffered at times like the rest of us. He identified with us in all ways. He knew what it was like to be swamped with troubles like all of us human beings. Matthew 26:37 says Jesus was troubled at the thought of his death by crucifixion and taking our sins on Himself. What? No! Light or heavy troubles, Jesus knows what you’re going through.
And now, a newsflash: Troubles help us.
God allows troubles to come to us because troubles work good in us as nothing else can.
Seriously ponder what James writes. “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). The very next subject James touches on is wisdom (1:5). Gee, almost like troubles cause us to ask for wisdom, which benefits us. Go figure.
Apostle Peter wrote to the dispersed Jesus-followers throughout Asia Minor who were experiencing troubles. “You rejoice in this, (What this? “…being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”) even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials (Why?) so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:5-7).
Our Heavenly Father allows us to experience trouble to produce endurance and maturity to prove our faith which will bring praise, honor, and glory to Jesus. Sounds like a good thing, no?
Troubles are beneficial if we approach them well. I didn’t say pleasant, I said beneficial. Our loving Heavenly Father lets us have them for our benefit.
Yes, we can avoid some troubles. Those troubles are usually of our own making. Avoiding those troubles takes wisdom (hat tip to James).
I’m talking about the unforeseen, gob-smacking, stunning, mind-numbing, personal-world-roils-in-upheaval troubles that blind-side us and leave us wondering if we’ll ever see relief.
Even those humongous troubles pale compared to an eternity of relief with God. Paul says it well, “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
The key is our focus. We can focus on our troubles or focus on the One who is leading us by the hand through our troubles. “He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me” (Psalm 23:3-4). Did that go by too fast? He leads us along “right paths” and sometimes those right paths go through the darkest valley, the Valley of Deepest Troubles. But with our Hand-Holder, we fear nothing!
We can fear nothing, but we often do fear because our faith is not perfect…yet.
So, Mr. or Ms. Perfect Christian, there is no such thing as perfection or a trouble-less life in Jesus. You will never be immune from troubles until you enter into eternity.
But there is a way through our troubles. In fact, there are many ways.
First, with God. One of Jesus’ monikers is Immanuel, “God With Us.” And now we know the name of our Hand-Holder in Psalm 23.
Secondly, we can draw on the support and guidance of other not-so-perfect-Christians who have “been there, done that,” who become the physical hand-holders holding our other hand. These blessed saints are the pillars who support us when the roof of our life is caving in.
Thirdly, we find help via other people who aren’t even Christians. Yes, I know this is a radical statement for the Christian who isolates themselves within their non-worldly camp of the righteous. But there are people whom we love and trust, who love and trust us, and who invite us to sink into their comforting arms when troubles overwhelm our world.
Fourthly, Ecclesiastes has been on my mind lately because of changes my wife and I are facing. Exciting changes, yes, but those changes carry various kinds of troubles with them. Hello! Life! Anyway, Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon, a man who had everything he wanted and no reason to be troubled by anything. And yet, Ecclesiastes is an ode to the troubles and uselessness life brings despite having everything. The wise perspective Solomon shares is that changes happen with time. Few troubles in this life are permanent. As there is “an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) so there is a time for troubles and a time to be free of troubles.
Sometimes it’s a short wait for things to change and troubles depart. Sadly, a few troubles endure for life. But this doesn’t negate what Solomon wrote or experienced. Time brings change and most troubles disappear over time. Hang in there, saint!
Finally, the best news is there is indeed an endpoint to all troubles for those who embrace Jesus. A day is coming when all troubles will be wiped away along with the tears they bring. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
We don’t need to pretend to be unaffected by troubles. Troubles are not a sign of weakness or imperfection. We have One who is perfect who can both dispel troubles and walk us through them. Life is not perfection, it’s a process toward perfection and troubles are part of that perfecting process.
So, are you sure you want to avoid trouble? God might have something wonderful for you that you need, Mr. or Ms. Not-So Perfect Christian.
Let not your hearts be troubled.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts