Home / Faith / 9 Reasons Why Following Jesus Can Be So Damn Hard

9 Reasons Why Following Jesus Can Be So Damn Hard

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.
Psalm 139:23-24

“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!

 

 

Join the Recklessly Alive Email List and Receive Your FREE eBook: 20 Christian Books That Ruined My Life

* indicates required

 

About Sam

in love with all things Jesus, music, adventure, writing, teaching, laughter, running, friendship. Founder of recklesslyalive.com.

Check Also

6 Reasons You Should Quit Reading Your Bible (Wait, What?!)

Perhaps you just hate clicked this article ready to scream “heretic” and burn me at …

13 comments

  1. It’s true that its not always easy, but yes, so definitely worth it. There is so much I could say (but not sure how to word). Our struggles are uniquely our own, but coming from a fellow struggler, I just kind of want to give you a hug. I dont really have much advise, as I’m learning, myself, except as the bible says to trust in the Lord will all our hearts, and lean not to our own understanding. Im learning to trust in the Lord, and oh boy its a journey. Just when it feels like things have calmed down BAM, here we go. I’ve been living for the Lord for a little under a year and a half, and I wouldnt trade it for the world.

  2. Way to be, Sam. You keep putting out excellent content pointing people to Jesus, and that’s admirable in light of all you’ve faced. I really hope you attract more and more people who are tired of church, religion, and business as usual because your writing inspires them and directs them back to Jesus.

    Camden

  3. Sam!

    Another great post! Your honesty is so refreshing. Keep doing what you’re doing and you will continue to touch lives. I always say, I would rather be on the cross with Jesus than any where else without Him. Besides we know that he who has died with Christ will rise with Him. Be assured of my prayers!!

    “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a warm fuzzy blanket when of course it is the cross” Flannery O’connor

  4. Thank you for the post!
    some struggles I’ve faced are the ups and downs that occur in my relationship with God. it takes extra faith sometimes when you’re not sure whether you’re fully at the right place doing the right thing or don’t know what would be necessary to have a better feeling about what you’re doing (confirmation…). But I’m learning that it’s not at all about feeling. it’s about whether or not my heart is at the right place. and especially when struggling with having certainty in my walk with God to keep going and keep pursuing Him in spite of the “routine” or daily patterns.
    “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment” Isaiah 50:10-11

  5. These are all so true, and most particularly no 9. Look at Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please him:” And at this point, people either break down and cry, “If God is so good, then why…?” Or else they simply turn away. It is all too easy to forget that there is an eternity – in fact this is the one thing that most people caught up in their daily lives don’t even want to think about. Remember, God already tried it once. He created man to live and work with Him in eternity and we flunked it, we turned the other way and chose the evil option. Now, He is not about to have that happen again – He is not going to have sin living an eternal life, which is precisely why our ancestors were sent out of the Garden. So we have to prove individually that we are worthy (sorry, folks!) He does not send evil and trouble upon us, it was invited into our lives by the exercise of free will – the greatest gift He gave us, and every day we reap the consequences. It is there where the rubber hits the road… It is in our hardest moments, when we are battling to keep our faith in the face of all that surrounds us, that the testing comes. But the second part of Hebrews 11:6 says, “for he that comes to God must believe that he is…” That makes sense. And then it goes on to say, “and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” ie He assures us of a good outcome if we are victorious. Jesus offers us the way – “Come unto me…” That is a daily exercise, not a one-off act. Paul knew and explained that clearly – Romans 7:15-20.

  6. Through our struggles, come our greatest growth – we learn so much from life if we don’t allow it to make us bitter! I know I was once bitter because of my struggles, but I had an experience where I saw how blessed I truly was and I was humbled and repented that I hadn’t seen it before – yes life is a roller coaster ride at timessage, but we are here to learn how to love and forgive and let go and we do that through Christ! The adversary of our soul would have us beaten down, feeling less than who we are, wanting payback for the injustices I could go on but you get the point- I so love to read your posts because I know you truly love Christ!

  7. No one can accuse you of sugar-coating things, Sam. 🙂 That’s one of the reasons your posts cut to my core and leave me feeling understood (yes, I also have a severe lack of those cells you described!), challenged, and alive…with a greater desire to pursue the love of the King–even in the storms and mess of this life. The truth you share here is so powerful, so painfully beautiful, so true. Once again, thank you.

  8. Thanks, Sam. Be encouraged that your words give people hope and you are making a difference. It’s really rough sometimes–and we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. Hang in there <3
    "Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this ::invisible but clearly present God::, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells–even though you still experience all the limitations of sin–you yourself experience life on God's terms." -Rom 8 MSG

  9. Hi Sam,

    Your ‘ Most Dangerous Prayer You Can Pray” can be SO hard. The thing is, your heart was made with that prayer woven into it, it IS part of you. And having a heart like that, a heart just like Jesus’, can sometimes cause all that sadness to come crashing in. I think that’s probably what happened to you on your long ride- the sadness and the pain, the meaness and the hurt of the world overcame you.

    But, Sam, to have a heart that God has woven together with such gentleness, is rare to find in our world today. You are an exception, a beautiful, shining light upon the hill. Please don’t think about the people who are saying awful, hurtful things to you, well, except to pray for them. Focus instead on the good that you do, and boy, do you do A LOT. You have personally made my depression a bit easier to bear and to me, a bit is quite a lot. I have very bad days. Sunday was a very bad day. I kept thinking, umm, maybe I should watch your famous video again. Finally, I went to my Pinterest board. I heard what I knew I needed to hear… again. Sam, you save and redirect people’s lives, probably on a daily basis, and you don’t even know it. But Jesus knows it and really, that’s all that matters.

    And, I loved your “9 Reasons Why Following Jesus Can be So Damn Hard”. After having a well-deserved meltdown, you compose an incredible post, perfect for this Holy Week. Thank you, again, Sam, for all you do in our Savior’s name.

  10. So sorry you’ve been having a rough few months! Nothing worth doing is easy and it seems when you really start trying to do [something], you find a lot of backlash and roadblocks. Crying becomes a great hobby 😉 Keep fighting the good fight! Don’t weary of doing good. And press toward the mark of the high calling of God. We love and need you out here.

  11. Down is up Sam

    Welcome to the front line.

  12. Being able to express your feelings verbally and in writing(which you do very well) requires special skills that God has given you.
    Concerning the Christian life being hard,I agree, and that is why God wants us to see ourselves as players in an Olympic game. Because if we see ourselves as spiritual athletes it will give us a new understanding of our trials and tribulations and help us to endure.(Heb.12:1-2)

  13. I have really enjoyed the last few articles I have read by you and I am glad they’re out here. I have been patient and praying for a wife for years. Some time ago I fell back into addiction that had plagued me half of my life and has probably come close to ruining my testimony at this point. I don’t want to give up! I lost my job in March but God provided and I have had severance. I’m unemployed though and struggling very much so for purpose in my life at 35. I have been single 5 years and have felt like I have struggled or outright failed myself and God countless times. I’m off anti anxiety medicine and I have gained weight and feel many side effects. All this to say thank you for honesty and your willingness to hang on. I’m trying to.