Dealing with Struggle in the Christian Life

We had no idea what following Jesus would demand when we started out. We thought we knew.

Welcome to the Christian life.

(Photo: Tyler Olson, via Vivozoom)

We thought the Christian life meant that once we believed in Jesus, if we walked obediently, God would bless us, protect us, put us at ease—basically dote on us as His children. To some extent, we still expect that.

But God wants to give us something greater than those things.

Releasing the Christian Life We Want

My uncle has a painting by Bill Hampton hanging in his home. The picture shows a crusty old cowboy, rugged and wrinkled, squinting just past you. The caption at the bottom reveals his thoughts in simple terms:

“There were a helluva lot of things they didn’t tell me when I hired on with this outfit.”

That cowboy might as well be Peter or John or any of the other disciples. Or he could be you or me.

Synagogue in Capernaum

(Photo: The Synagogue in Capernaum)

One day in Capernaum, Jesus set straight a crowd who intended to make Him king by force, and He spoke some hard words. Afterwards, many no longer followed Him. Jesus turned to His men with a question: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67).

Peter’s answer reflects the attitude we should have: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus’ words are hard words—but there are no alternatives.

There cannot be.

Welcome to the Normal Christian Life

Hardship is normal for the Christian life. Peter would later write, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

God promises struggles because God shapes us through them. Our growth comes no other way. The Lord wants to give us more than comfort. He wants to give Christlikeness.

But mull this over as well:

  • Our brief, little life here on earth represents the only time in all of eternity when we can glorify God in the midst of struggle.
  • Have you ever considered struggle as a temporary privilege? (Take the time to read the scene leading up to Acts 5:41.)
  • In heaven, we’ll honor Christ to His face. But now we have the privilege of honoring Him in the face of struggle—by faith, not by sight.
  • Then we’ll glory in His transfiguration. Now we glorify Him beneath the cross we bear . . . and in temptation and weakness (see 2 Cor. 12:7-9).

I’m no masochist, believe me. And yet, I’m eager to honor God during the longest life He will allow me and, while I’m here, to struggle well.

Question: What surprises did the Christian life hand you–both pleasant and not-so-pleasant? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), pp. 92-93. Used by permission

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  • Daniel White

    Very encouraging, I have never thought about are struggle in life here as a way of honoring him here.
    I feel better thinking as struggle as a temporary privelege that he can use to shape me. Thinking of it that way, I think he may be in the work of shaping me at this momement.

  • Rfranks

    Love reading your blog every time Wayne. Wow! This one was especially encouraging because I’m going through some pretty tricky emotional stuff lately. Never really thought of it exactly like: now’s the only time in all eternity we’ll be able to glorify Him through struggles… Really good stuff as always brother.

    • Wayne Stiles

      Thanks, Ray. It sounds so noble that this life is our privilege to suffer for Jesus, but man! Tough assignment. An honor, nevertheless.

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  • Graeme

    Hi Wayne,
    it’s interesting that Paul had learned to be content in all circumstances, considering what he went through. cheers, Graeme

    • Wayne Stiles

       You make a great point, Graeme. “Learning” contentment is a real challenge for us. Maybe that’s why God had Paul write that principle from prison– so that we have little worse to compare ourselves to (Philippians 4:11).

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  • Caleb

    You have no clue how much I needed to read this today. I didn’t even know about this blog before this morning but God had to have had me come across it because He knew that the verses you shared were exactly what He needed to tell me today! Thank you for letting God use as such a powerful instrument!

    • Wayne Stiles

      I’m continually amazed, Caleb, at our sovereign God. Thanks for connecting with me and for staying sensitive to God’s voice. I’m grateful my blog played a part in God’s encouragement for you today! God bless.