One Sunday evening, the pastor making a point that sometimes when we follow Jesus, He asks very difficult things of us. The apostle Paul was his example, and he stressed how in our comfortable 21st century existence, that kind of hardship was less than appealing. And to help underscore his point, he asked, “Would anybody want to get stoned for Jesus?”
I cracked up.
Yes, I pictured a group of hippies in a foggy haze. Sigh. I could blame the years of teaching boys in Sunday school. (Incidentally, I was so glad my son was not sitting beside me at that moment.) Or perhaps I should chalk it up to the era in which I was born. The hippie thing was part of my cultural heritage.
Goofy story aside, the fact is we are often unaware how much our life experience colors our understanding of God and His word. If we are carrying emotional scars from a difficult past, it may be next to impossible to believe that God is loving, that He welcomes us, that He delights in us, that He will never leave us or forsake us or any of the other amazing promises He makes. We may grudgingly concede that the promises are true for others, but we balk when it comes to believing they are for us.
We can’t undo the past, or erase those scars. So how do we embrace those truths?
Admit there is a struggle. One of my favorite statements in Scripture addresses this. It’s in Mark 9:24. A desperate father came to Christ seeking healing for his son. You can almost hear the anguish in his voice when he says “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” He doesn’t fake. He doesn’t give the Sunday school answer. He is very humble and very genuine.
Realize the struggle is not a deal-breaker. In fact, it’s common. In Scripture, we read about people like John the Baptist, Job, Paul, Moses, Elijah, Sarah and so many others who had trouble grasping God’s promises. After Jesus resurrection, Peter went back to fishing. Maybe he thought he’d blown his chance to do great things because he failed so miserably in his denials. Maybe he thought something like “Jesus, I believe you can save me. I’m just not sure you can use me.” One word, Peter. Pentecost.
Finally, understand it takes time. For something this critical, God won’t stand for any easy fixes. He is willing to take the time to ensure we “get” it. We will be forever changed afterward. In Scripture, folks came away from their struggles with new names, new callings and on one occasion even a new limp, but all of those signified a fresh intimacy with Jehovah.
What have you struggled to believe? How did you work (or how are you working) to grab hold of it?