There Is No Shortcut in Following Jesus

Being a Christian doesn't automatically make life easier, but it does give us hope for better.

Life would be easier if I had cheat codes, if I could just type in some secret words and the magical solutions to my problem would appear. But the thing about cheat codes is that they make the game too easy. Boring. Meaningless. Unfulfilling.

If you skip the levels on Ocarina of Time to get to the boss, what’s the point? The best part of the game is the adventuring, the learning, the puzzle-solving and the discovery, the satisfaction when you hear the little jingle that means you’ve solved a tricky mystery. If you increase your productivity in Starcraft or make yourself invincible, the whole purpose of the game is moot. Plus, if you’re me—someone who can’t even look up a step in a walkthrough without feeling like I’ve betrayed myself and the game—you feel guilty for doing so.

I remember hearing counselors at Bible camp telling kids their lives would be great if they just “said the prayer and accepted Jesus into their hearts.” Hearing this bothers me to no end. Jesus said “Come, follow me,” not “Come, follow me, and I will make your life easy. And your time on earth will be a frolicking among rainbows and unicorns.”

Following Jesus isn’t supposed to be easy.

Telling myself that actually makes it easier for me, because sometimes I feel pressure and guilt for struggling with issues that come up in my life. “I’m going through depression? I must not have a good enough relationship with God” is an all-too common thought for believers. “I’m struggling because someone challenged my faith? There must be something wrong with my relationship with God, because I don’t feel like I said the right thing” might be another. Or perhaps, “I’m barely making enough money to pay rent? God must not love me.”

I could go on. But being a Christian comes with its own unique set of challenges, and I shouldn’t feel like I am doing something wrong when they happen.

My favorite Bible passage is James 1, which talks about what to do when facing troubles. That means we are expected to face problems. God isn’t necessarily going to take them away. There are other verses, like Acts 14:22, that also tell us we will go through hardships to enter the kingdom of God, and Luke 14:25-33, which talks about the cost of following Christ.

Jesus lightens the burden of our sins and gives rest to our souls (Matthew 11:28-29) in that we have someone else to rely on and pray to, someone who looks after us. But until He comes again, our physical bodies are still going to have a rough time in this world, because the world is full of evil. Bad stuff happens.

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Having every problem solved for me would cheat me out of growing, out of experiencing, out of building a relationship with God.

Sometimes, Jesus does take away a problem or ease a burden (He’s answered my prayer for rent every single month). But more often than not, I have to go through the process of pain and struggle. And that’s all right, because He never promised otherwise. He told me being a Christian would be hard, and I chose to follow Him anyway, because I believe what He offers is so much better than any hardship that comes with it. Jesus doesn’t give me cheat codes, and I’m OK with that.

3 Comments

Marc Servos

82

Marc Servos commented…

We've heard what Allison writes about many times from others. Being a practicing Christian doesn't make one above being human, and any transformation doesn't occur overnight. I see that as a life-long spiritual journey. It's not easy, but it have to be necessarily painful, which is subject for discussion. Many find a sense of inner peace. My two cents' worth.

Michael Morejon

1

Michael Morejon commented…

Great article Allison. It's so true that Christ never promised it would be easy. On the contrary, I would much rather live life with Christ than alone. Regardless of how many friends, family, etc. we may have, nobody can replace the peace that only can be found in Him. Thanks for writing honestly.

Doug Krennan

2

Doug Krennan commented…

I'm leading a discussion group in a spiritual community where most of the participants are agnostic.

And my message to them is very similar to what Ms. Barron describes in her article. The search for meaning and the path to truth will not be easy. Personal hardships will not go away, and the rent must still be paid.

In some respects, our task is even more difficult than what is described above. Without a 'divinely inspired' scripture, we must rely on ourselves and our community to help us assess truth and illuminate the path.

Ultimately, our goal is the same as that for our Christian brethren – to lead more loving and compassionate lives. To contribute to a stronger more just society. To transcend our own personal realities and selfishness to see love and beauty in all people. This is not an easy journey, but one that (as Marc Servos notes) can yield substantial inner peace.

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