It’s no secret that my life has been littered with struggle.
A quick google search will lead you to discover more about my story than many people learn in years of knowing me. You can read about my dad who left, the false friendships that cut deep, the brush ups I’ve had with the church, a girl or two I’ve loved and lost.
You can even watch a video about the day all those stories almost seized to exist.
Ah… the #bloggerlife.
While my social media probably doesn’t reflect it very well, at 28, I’m quietly having one of the hardest years of my life. On my 4 hour drive this weekend down to Iowa, I couldn’t break free from ruminating on all the pain and stress of the past 8 months.
Since August, it seems as soon as I get my footing something else pops up: another illness, another lost friend, another unexpected house repair, another sleepless night…
About 90 minutes in, the dam holding it all together gave way and the tears came flooding out in a beautiful, ugly cry—the type of sob men aren’t suppose to admit unless it’s a funeral or Vikings playoff loss. The roads blurred around me as I just started yelling at God like it is somehow all his fault.
Maybe you have the spiritual maturity to glide through life having calm, reverent conversations with God… I don’t have a single cell like that in my body.
My emotions run high; I need to scream at the creator of the universe sometimes. Luckily, he can take it.
Truthfully, much of my life has just been hard. Really hard. And I thought I was past that. I thought the hardest things had come and gone. I thought I’d accepted everything I’ve survived and then there I was again, fighting the same battle for the zillionth time feeling hopeless and unworthy.
Through the ups and downs of life I keep coming back to one false belief: I thought following Jesus would be a hell of a lot easier.
I mean, should I really be surprised when all but one of the twelve disciples suffered violent deaths spreading the truth about Jesus.
So today let’s get it out there. Let’s bust the myth that following Jesus will lead to infinite wealth and prosperity, and be real about the struggles we face in this pursuit of being fully and recklessly alive in God.
1. Following Jesus is Not Supposed to Be Comfortable
If you’re truly following Jesus, he will call you to walk on the water sometimes—to trust him so completely that if you take your eyes off him you will sink. (Matthew 14:22-33)
This is totally unintuitive in our self-made, wealth-driven culture. We spend our whole lives trying to build a kingdom of protection so we never have to fully rely on God (or anyone else) in any area of our lives.
Yet Jesus is constantly inviting us to trust him with all of our mess. He’s incessantly calling us to take risks and live a big beautiful life that points people to him. And there’s nothing comfortable about trust or risk. It’s really frickin’ hard.
“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.” ― David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
2. Following Jesus Teaches You to See How Broken Our World Is
When you start praying dangerous prayers, when you actually get your hands dirty serving the least of the these and the untouchables of the world, your heart breaks in a way you never knew was possible.
Following Jesus is going to lead you to take some radical steps. It’s going to open your eyes to the millions of people struggling to make it through the day. It’s going to take away the option of returning to a comfortable, self-centered existence without the tension of knowing you could choose to be a difference-maker every single day you’re alive.
“It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.” ― Katie J. Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption
3. Following Jesus Will Make You Look Foolish Sometimes
I’ve found in my years of chasing Jesus that my life is just going to look a lot different than the way people expect. From finances to waiting to have sex until marriage, to how I spend my time—a life lived with Jesus will always stand out (In an awesome way).
But with that comes almost certain attacks from the outside. At least that’s the case in my story.
God sometimes calls us to make the illogical choice: to choose a lower paying job or give away more money than seems socially acceptable. Sometimes God calls us to do something reckless like befriend a homeless man or be a missionary to Zimbabwe.
When we listen to God’s plan for our lives, we have to walk in faith even if the world doesn’t understand (and we all know how people react to things they don’t understand..)
“Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” ― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
4. Following Jesus Means Worshiping When You Don’t Feel Like it
This one is real hard to swallow.
A lot of well-meaning Christians will say things like “everything happens for a reason,” and I just don’t think that’s true. Someone shooting innocent kids in an elementary school or losing their battles with suicidal thoughts… I don’t believe it happened for a reason. It happened because we live in a fallen, broken world. When sin entered the picture, so did pain and destruction.
The hard truth is while God can make miracles happen, sometimes He doesn’t. Tragedy and loss will find you at some point in life and you have two choices—to run to God or run away from him.
I want to be Job—I want to never stop praising God even when I don’t understand why everything is so hard, but that doesn’t come naturally to me. It takes a lot of faith and perseverance. Even in the hardest of times, the goodness of God does not change. God is always good, even when the world is not.
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ― C.S. Lewis
5. Following Jesus Doesn’t Equal Winning at Church
A lot of churches focus on Christian activity rather than the serving the poor, spreading the gospel and training disciples… as I shared in my now infamous millennials post.
Go ahead, open most church bulletin and what will you find? 16 groups you can join and 2 serving opportunities (often within the church walls).
Of course, we should be serving in our local churches, but we have to make sure we are laser focused on not getting swept up in church power, politics, and popularity and remember what Jesus really calls us to do.
It is true that going out onto the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But if the church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded church that goes out onto the streets and a sick, withdrawn church, I would definitely choose the first one. -Pope Francis
6. If You Follow Jesus the World Will Hold You to a Higher (Sometimes Twisted) Standard
I can’t tell you how many times my faith has been thrown in my face. Once, after working with a business who forged my signature on a legal document, then tried to convince me not to turn them in because they knew I was a Christian.
“I thought you were a man of faith,” the guy yelled at me.
“I am. And that means doing the right thing and telling the truth.”
That didn’t stop him from screaming at me.
Whether you realize it or not, people are watching the way you live your life and relating it to the God you serve. If you say you follow Jesus but don’t live out a life worthy of that calling, people notice (and they will try to use it against you).
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. -Ephesians 4:1
7. Following Jesus Will Reveal Your Short-Comings
I don’t want to come face to face with the areas of my life I could improve; I’d rather just go on believing I’m awesome. Yet following Jesus means constantly means working on improving the way you live and recognizing where you could step up your game.
Some people call this conviction… that sounds too “Principal’s Office” to me.
I think if Jesus is at the heart of your life, you’ll want to be the best follower you can be and that requires vulnerable things like apologizing, admitting sin and asking for help.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
“Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin.” ― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
8. Following Jesus Means Sharing Your Story
In my second year back in church, I got asked to share 5 minutes of my story at three services in front of our entire congregation (over 2,000 people) about why I served in Kids Ministry.
I was terrified. I was super nervous, but I just did it. I shared about my alcoholic father, about feeling abandoned and wanting young people to have strong male role models in their lives.
I know we are all called to share about our faith and the things God has done in the hardest parts of our stories. Something incredible happens when we share, we give people a glimpse of how awesome God is (and we free ourselves).
We don’t need to stand on the street corner and ask every passerby if they’ve “heard the good news.” Although kudos to you if you’re rocking that. I do know we will all be asked to share and speak about the great things God has done in and through us.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
9. Following Jesus Requires… Faith
This one might seem super obvious but in reality, it’s one of the hardest aspects of the journey. I’ve never experienced God in physical form or in an audible voice and sometimes He feels so distant and, dare I say it, invisible.
The whole aspect of faith is that we are trusting in something we cannot see or prove. Following Jesus means trusting that better things are ahead, that even in the most treacherous of storms, God will send a lifeboat. And he does. He always comes through, often in ways we never expected.
That’s called faith. Believing that even in the deepest of pain, better things will come. It’s just really hard.
I can’t tell you why life is really hard sometimes.
I can tell you that there is a peace with God that passes all understanding, that if you put your trust and your faith in him, incredible things will happen in your life. You’ll find a strength you never knew was possible.
And other times, it might not feel like enough. And both are okay.
If you’re really struggling, know that you are not alone. Know that struggle is a part of the journey this side of heaven. Reach out for help. Talk to a friend. Walk your body into a church. Open up your bible and learn about the risks and rewards for following Jesus.
You see, even in the lowest moments, I know that following Jesus was the best decision I ever made and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Sure, it’s not always easy. In fact, sometimes it’s damn hard. But boy is it worth it for there will be no better reward than reaching heaven and hearing, “well done my good and faithful servant.”
What struggles have you faced in following Jesus? What advice do you have for others going through really tough times? Leave them in the comments below!