When Real Life Gets in the Way of Radical

If life isn’t the grand adventure we thought, does that mean we’ve missed God along the way?

When I was a teen, I read John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life—and I took it to heart. I was a new Christian and consumed it in a few days. It spoke to the deepest longings of my newly changed heart and solidified my desire to serve Jesus—no matter the cost. Next, I devoured Wild at Heart, Crazy Love, then a few years later Radical and Wide Awake.

I continued to grow spiritually, consuming any Christian resource I could get my hands on. Sermons were full of stories that glorified missionaries like William Carey and Hudson Taylor, who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel. More times than I can count, those services ended with my knees hitting the altar, my heart burning and my prayers asking Jesus to send me the four corners of the earth and that I would gladly join the great adventure that is it to follow Jesus and if need be, die a martyr for Him. Like Isaiah, I shouted, “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”

What happened to that passionate teenager I used to be? Am I missing God in my life?

Then adulthood came.

Now my days are filled with office hours, taxes and the most efficient way to heat my house. There are moments when I sit in my overpriced recliner, cold drink in hand, in the midst of a Netflix marathon at my 40” flat screen, and I realize: What happened to that passionate teenager I used to be? Am I missing God in my life?

And more importantly, where do these thoughts come from? Is this holy discontentment or just discontentment?

I know I’m not the only one. This dissatisfaction mirrors a growing cultural tendency.

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is infecting young adults everywhere. We look at our social media feeds and the anxiety of what we’re missing builds. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, we now know what career that kid in our French class undertook, where that girl from our freshman orientation class ended up living and who ended marrying who—because it’s all available with the point and click of a mouse.

But we also know which parties we weren’t invited to. We also become privy to pictures of old friends backpacking through Europe, moving to New York City, jet skiing in Cancun or going to law school, and we can’t help but feel deflated in comparison to where our lives are going.

We start to think: My life isn’t as exciting as theirs. Maybe I’m missing out on the best parts of life.

But I’m beginning to wonder if the Church is actually feeding this idea. I’m beginning to wonder if we have cultivated our own fear of missing God.

We need not beat ourselves up because we are not doing what others are doing, but we can ask ourselves, “What can I do now?”

Are my feelings of spiritual discontentment fed by those Facebook photos of my old classmate and his water well building effort in Zambia? Or perhaps that tweet my friend sent out about volunteering at the homeless shelter?

Are these modern-day super saints coupled with those don’t-waste-your-life-themed books and sermons causing me to look in the mirror and think, “Wow, I'm boring”?

Young Christians are leaving the Church because they’re disillusioned. The exciting and adventurous Christian life as painted by our predecessors looks starkly different than our present reality. And this bleak contrast creates a shadow of guilt that looms over us as we sense that we have sold out—we’ve shamefully traded the Great Commission for life’s demands and comforts.

The great tragedy is that everyday Joes like you and I can sense that we are somehow subpar Christians, because we’re not doing as much as we should be. We are the ones who clock in for 40 hours a week, or teach seventh grade math or drop off your mail. We remember our passionate youth, we live in our present reality and we quietly suffer in wondering if we’re missing out on God.

May I offer some encouragement from someone still trying to figure all this out?

God loves and accepts us as we are, though that is very hard to accept for many of us. He does invite us to a radical life—a life marked by selflessness, grace and love. But you can be radical in a soccer camp in Zambia just as much as you can be radical in a 9-5. We need not beat ourselves up because we are not doing what others are doing, but we can ask ourselves, “What can I do now?”

I used to be green with envy at my friends on the international missions field. I spoke to my wife about how I wanted to reach people who were far from God, and she suggested that I start playing basketball with the teenagers at the park across the street. So I did. I started right where I was, and I have been blessed in building these relationships and sharing Christ’s love right in my own neighborhood.

By focusing on this one question to keep ourselves available to Him—in the workplace, at home, going about our daily routine and errands—we can combat our crippling fear of missing God. I have found more often than not that His Kingdom is found in the commonplace, not the hype.

We don’t need to live under the fear of missing God. His promise in Jesus is that He is Emmanuel—He is God with us. He is near, wherever the unpredictable road of life takes us.

Top Comments

Tyler Campbell

1

Tyler Campbell commented…

I resonate well with your description, and yet sadly your encouragement does not encourage me. I have been told that sort of thing before, and the problem is that if you have passion for something but you're stuck in a place where you can't live that passion out, then it really is loss. There is a real discontentment in wanting to serve your Father in a particular way, yet being prevented from doing so. To pretend like it is equal either way is not honoring the difficultly. And yet I believe there is real encouragement to be had in God's sovereignty and trust in his plan if we take a submissive stance to him.

10 Comments

Ian McKerracher

25

Ian McKerracher commented…

I am almost 60 yrs old (what's a 60 yr old guy doing in this mag?) and I just mentioned this morning to my classroom of trade apprentices that I am a Christian and would be happy to speak about that part of my life with anyone outside of the class time. How can this not be exciting? I have a marriage to which I must pay attention, two amazing kids who are doing amazing things with their families, a number of people coming to be part of a bible discussion group that my wife and I ...uhmmm...lead. Again, how can this be anything but exciting?

Matt Wright

7

Matt Wright replied to Ian McKerracher's comment

Ian, I think you are living out the exact point of this article!

Tammie Diggs

25

Tammie Diggs replied to Matt Wright's comment

Why is a 60 year old reading this magazine? To stay relevant of course!

Jeremy Seely

1

Jeremy Seely commented…

If you're tempted to feel that Facebook-envy, remember you're seeing their highlight reel and comparing it to your behind-the-scenes footage.

Kaitlyn Knudson

1

Kaitlyn Knudson commented…

Definitely can relate to this. Although I'm still pretty young, I often find myself questioning whether or not I'm living life in the "radical" way that I so often fantasize about. I find that usually this radical way of living in my mind is often daydreamed about in the form of physical details- i.e. selling things, giving, living in a shack somewhere, being somewhere far away and cut off from society as I know it, etc. While this is okay, the most important revelation I've had is that I'm not daydreaming about the most important thing- reaching out, witnessing, loving other people. It's always dreams of me feeling secure in the idea that I would be less selfish, somehow, by giving up all I know. Like I said, not a bad thing by any means, but I agree with you when you say that if it's coming from this fear of "missing God" somehow, it becomes negative. It makes you miss opportunities that you have to be "radical" now.

I wrote my own blog post about this not too long ago, if anyone is interested in seeing more of this topic/hearing another sort-of "suggestion", if you will: http://kkrambles.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/so-you-want-to-be-radical/

Tyler Campbell

1

Tyler Campbell commented…

I resonate well with your description, and yet sadly your encouragement does not encourage me. I have been told that sort of thing before, and the problem is that if you have passion for something but you're stuck in a place where you can't live that passion out, then it really is loss. There is a real discontentment in wanting to serve your Father in a particular way, yet being prevented from doing so. To pretend like it is equal either way is not honoring the difficultly. And yet I believe there is real encouragement to be had in God's sovereignty and trust in his plan if we take a submissive stance to him.

Matt Wright

7

Matt Wright replied to Tyler Campbell's comment

No doubt there will be as many (or more) spiritual deserts as there are mountain-top experiences, and it sounds like you are in a bit of a desert place now. There is purpose in the pain, and I'll be praying that God continues to lead you through this and into your own metaphorical Promised Land.

Calvin Sun

3

Calvin Sun commented…

I think it is prudent to evaluate whether we are accomplishing God's will for us each season. Sometimes there's more to these feelings of discontentment than we hope they are and we make excuses to avoid taking up the challenge. As a mid 30s 1st gen. immigrant I find a lot of my peers (and myself) failing to reach the full potential God has bless us with. Our parents has struggled through various hardships to lay down a spiritual (and worldly) foundation for us and as such our generation should be capable of more, reach further, and take bigger risks for God's Kingdom. Maybe our discontentment is justified because we can see the 'harvest' in front of us but we are too comfortable to do the work.

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