I think I get it. Why so many people stop being Christians or refrain from the Christian faith at all. Because being a Christian is hard, and I know that because I am currently trudging my way through it.
There are rules. And probably not even rules that God meant for us to uphold, but these unspoken rules of what you have to do and what it takes to be a so-called “good Christian.” Most of those rules don’t make sense, or at least I feel like they don’t have much backing to them other than “the bible says so” and even then they are taken out of context of what the bible actually says.
Then there are commitments. Go to church every Sunday. Read your bible every night. Pray before you put a sliver of food into your mouth. (Maybe some of those blend with the rules…) But sometimes I feel like being a Christian is my part-time job. Pre-COVID I definitely spent some billable hours at the church or doing things for the church or with those I serve from church.
And maybe the most challenging to wrap your head around, have faith.
At least with rules there are concrete do’s and don’ts. And with commitments there are evident hours of your life spent doing something. But how on early do you even list out or calculate how to have faith.
When someone takes on a sport, you practice and practice and practice, and you get better. As a kid you don’t really know much, but then you get older and you learn and experience and then eventually you know better. With most everything in life, the more time and effort you put into something the more you’re able to understand later. But I can confidently say after having been raised in the church and having dedicated my life to Christ that one summer years ago in Africa, I don’t think it’s gotten any easier to have faith.
Honestly, it’s become more challenging. I have cried my eyes out in absolute agony and despair in more than a few hundred occasions. I have felt the rug being pulled out from under me with absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. I have watched front row as some of the greatest, most valuable, my favorite things in life have slipped from my grip and come crumbling down. In my many years of faith, that is what I have gone through.
And you would think that faith is one step back and two steps forward, but more often than not it feels like one step back, one step back, one step back, one step back. I have been living in a never-ending tumble cycle of “what the hell is God even doing?”
So I will be the first to say, having faith is not at all easy.
What would be easy would be putting my cross down, and walking on my own. It would be a lot less pressure and a lot less weight. What would be easy would be cutting corners and just doing it the way everyone else in the world does it. That would probably get me to my foreseeable future fantasy faster. Goodness, it would be so much easier to just not have faith. To just go my own way.
But for as much as I’ve felt upset about the difficulty of following Jesus, I’ve equally- if not more- made so many mistakes as a result of doing it my own way. I have said the wrong thing. I have made a poor decision here and there. I have bought many dresses that I could neither afford nor have a purpose for wearing. Quite frankly, I just mess up- a lot sometimes.
And because I am imperfect, that is why I follow a perfect God.
That is why I abide by the rules and uphold those weekly commitments in my calendar. That is why I believe in something- someone- I will never understand or be able to measure. Because being a Christian means following Christ, and Christ lived and achieved perfection. I may never live nor achieve perfection, but in being a Christian and doing the hard things, I think I am one inch closer to a goodness I know I can never achieve on my own.
This doesn’t mean it gets easier. I am still going to grit my teeth, stomp my feet, and yell my way forward. It is still going to suck sometimes. I can guarantee you, I will cry at least a few more hundred times. This pain is inevitable when we live on this side of eternity.
But God did not promise me sunshine all day every day. He did however make sure that that all the elements can come together in order to form the most spectacular rainbows after a storm. Because in order to have a rainbow, you need a few clouds, maybe some golf ball sized rain drops, and just the right amount of sunlight. It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly all mixed together to create the most spectacular something.
And that’s what God is doing. Taking all the hard things, maybe the few easy things, and definitely the many enjoyable moments, and He’s creating goodness through it all.