Really? No More Hardships Next Year?
A friend from up north posted this meme (Technically called an ‘image macros’) on Facebook a week ago, and thus inspired me to write a Words of Grace about it. He was just reposting it from someone else, and I spoke with him to make sure he understood that if and when I wrote about this so-called ‘God promise’ I wasn’t insulting him, but actually would hope that it would encourage him since he’s gone through a tough time physically/medically these past few years. He told me to go for it
We’ve all seen posts such as this (if you’re on Facebook!) – posts that promise you prosperity, health, good luck, eternal life, five dateable guys or gals to show up at your door this week, etc. – IF you repost it within one minute of seeing it; forwarded the email to one hundred people with green eyes; read it out loud while hanging upside down in the upstairs closet of your childhood home; or in the case of this particular post – if you share it and type “Amen!”.
I know enough about my own flesh that I have wished these ‘blessings’ would come true (except the five dateable guys and gals showing up at my door this week…I already have that date – and I knocked on her door forty years, nine months, and eighteen days ago!) – but of course, I think I’m wise enough – and not driven by superstition – to know that these kinds of Internet/email promises or ‘guarantees’ are just plain silly. But then again, thousands upon thousands of people will forward this message and type “Amen” in hopes that their dreams will come true!
This Words of Grace isn’t about the overall scam of such posts as these, but rather just on the sadly deceptive message of this particular meme. Sure, some of those posted memes/image macros are promising generic blessings that anyone can say came true – just like your horoscope (which I DO NOT recommend reading) will tell you such general and non-specific things that the naïve will foolishly believe it actually predicted perfectly their life for the day. But this particular promise – “God is about to remove hardship from your life this year” is such a sad lie and an insult to the character, nature and sovereign purposes of God – and the fallen state of humanity and the universe – that I just had to say something about it.
Let me first disclose that there is one situation – and only one – in which this statement is absolutely, unequivocally, unmistakably, and universally true. The Lord God will remove hardship from your life this year – if you are a Christian and you die in 2016. That is the only circumstance and time in which the Lord will finally remove all hardship from your life – at the Christian’s death – and what a glorious day that will be.
But until that day we are just going to have to face the facts – as long as we are living in this current, temporary and weakening earthsuit – as good and beautiful as this world and life can be – at some point(s) in our life we are all going to face trouble, get sick, have heartache, be rejected, ignored, laughed at, mocked, get fired, be uncomfortable, get constipated, be persecuted, and face any number of other trials and tribulations. “Boy Randy, you’re a regular Debbie Downer!”
Concerning that list of trials, you might complain: “But how is that possible? Isn’t God love? Aren’t we ‘King’s kids’, thus free of trouble? Why wouldn’t He – why doesn’t He, just take away all of our troubles, and remove all of the hardships from our life? There can’t be any good and redeeming purpose to pain. If God is an omnipotent/all powerful God, and if He is perfect in His love, and if He is as good and kind as the Bible says He is, then why doesn’t He remove hardship from our life today, tomorrow or sometime this year?”
I guess what often happens in a world that has an ‘idea’ about God – a surface understanding of who the biblical God is – who have a little bit of God to make their ‘spiritual, but not religious’ views dangerous – who have strange unbiblical beliefs about the Lord that are based on misinformation, distortions of the truth – that are based on a lie, are conceived by their own selfish, sinful and unrepentant desires, propagated by the media, and who for some outlandish reason actually believe they deserve to be blessed of God without any serious and humble commitment to Him – then we shouldn’t be surprised when people make claims such as this meme promises, and that many others will superstitiously believe it!
NOWHERE in the Bible does it say that God owes us anything but His perfect, holy, and righteous judgment, yet unbelievers – as well as many believers – still hold to some kind of fanciful human entitlement idea – that we all are poor little innocent and struggling creatures who are basically good, so the Lord is obligated to be a heavenly Santa Claus or a helicopter mom, who makes sure that we get whatever we want, and will guarantee that no harm comes to her little baby.
So, what does the Word of God have to say about this so-called divine promise “God is about to remove hardship from your life this year”?
Let’s start with Jesus since He is the Beginning and the End; He is the Word; and as Christians we believe has the final Word:
John 16:33 – “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.”
The Lord God isn’t going to remove hardship from your life this year just because you agree (‘like’), and then forward the message with an ‘Amen’ with it. And one of many reasons He isn’t going to is because we just read here that the Lord Jesus Christ has already promised us that we would face trouble! I’m going to trust God’s Word over a positive thinking meme! And then we have this statement from Jesus found in the first part of Matthew 10:22, “You will be hated by everyone because of Me…”.
How about this one from Luke 21:16-17? “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.” Yoiks! That doesn’t sound like a year without hardships! We live in a fallen world and stuff is going to happen. I love how M. Scott Peck opens up his monumental book “The Road Less Traveled”:
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.
It goes on with an even better paragraph, but you’ll have to read that for yourselves. The bottom line is that we are delusional if we think that life is going to be easy, conflict-free, and nothing but showers of blessing, just because we ‘know Jesus’.
When we realize that ‘life is difficult’ and then trust what God’s Word says about the purpose of conflict, and how to deal with the trials of this life, then all of our problems won’t go away, but we’ll discover the grace of God from the hand of God that will enable us to not only face these trials with His strength, but we will also grow through them. What is one of the goals for all Christians? To be problem free? No! We read in Romans 8:28-29,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brothers and sisters.
Verse 29 there tells us that we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. It is the Lord’s preordained decree that each of His children would to grow and mature in Christlikeness. And what is the number one way any of us learn and grow? By life, school, work, exercise all being easy? Why did we call the math work we did at school and homework ‘problems’? We learned by facing and working through those ‘problems’. As much as we all hate to admit it, it was the going through tough times in life when we really matured and ‘grew up’.
So, if the Lord takes away all hardships from us in 2016 then guess what the end result will be? We’ll become lazy; emotionally, physically, spiritually and morally anemic; selfish; and we’ll actually move backwards instead of forward. It’s all about our attitude. It’s all about deciding if we want to grow or groan – become bitter or better. Speaking of attitude, here’s what the apostle James had to say about facing head-on the trials of this life – James 1:2-4:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James does not really expect us to be laughing, singing and dancing when the doctor tells us that the tests indicate that we have cancer! But what he is telling us, is that if we are trusting in the sovereign God, who is infinite in His wisdom, and perfect in His love, then whatever diagnosis, whatever result, whatever circumstance that we face in this life, we have the promise here in His Word that the Lord will use that situation to make us more like Jesus, and it will also glorify the name of the Lord. But obviously, we have to face those trials with that attitude.
“But”, you might chime in, “what kind of cruel God is this that makes some folks live their entire life in turmoil?” Well, first off, as I said earlier, what makes any of us think that we deserve a trouble-free life, especially since it is only by God’s saving grace that any of us have been allowed to become children of God? Mankind is only reaping what it has sown for ignoring the Lord God for thousands of years. It is only God’s common grace that has allowed anyone to live, breathe, and even prosper, despite mankind’s adamant refusal to honor and worship the Lord as the sovereign God.
Secondly, as the same James quoted above says later in his fourth chapter, this life we live – this 76.5 years we may live on this planet – is but a vapor – like the morning fog. This life is but a drop in the ocean when compared to eternity. The pain we face in this life (and I am not negating or minimizing anyone’s hardship) is nothing compared to the peace, contentment, and joy of eternity in the Lord’s presence.
In the same vein, the apostle Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Paul wasn’t denying or minimizing the pain that the Christians were experiencing. On the contrary, Paul himself went through horrible persecution, imprisonment, stonings, and beatings for the sake of the Gospel – he truly understood the pain that Christians were experiencing or might experience. But he had his sights on the prize at the end of the race – total peace in the presence of the Lord. Starting in January I’m going to be preaching through the Old Testament Book of Job, and at that time we will focus our attention on this whole issue of suffering, growth, and the victory found in Christ.
But for now, don’t go looking for trouble. Don’t be a jerk and aggravate people to throw stones at you and then say “I’m being persecuted for righteousness sake.” Don’t lie down fatalistically and do nothing about your suffering, your illness, your pain, your troubles, and simply say, “It must be God’s will.” But don’t live in the distorted halcyon days of your childhood when you thought that everything was wonderful and carefree (When they really weren’t!). Be honest with yourself. Face the troubles of this life in the power and grace of the Spirit. Remain faithful to the One who called you into His great light. Trust in His will, His Word and His ways. And quit thinking that the Lord is going to remove all of your hardships next year if you type “Amen” and forward that meme to all of your Facebook friends. Forgive my incorrect English, but that ain’t gonna happen!
Image credit: Flickr