Coping with the tough times as a Christian
Regular columnist James Knight reflects on how tough life as a Christian can be.
Life is tough sometimes, really tough. We all go through times in life when we find it really hard to cope - when, actually, it's a struggle just to get through the day. I'm in one of those periods in my life, and I rather feel as though I am a ghost of my previous self at present. Right now, at this stage of my life, I feel I need God rather more than I've ever needed Him.
On Friday evening I felt led towards Ephesians 6, but it spoke to me in a way that I wasn't expecting. We all know about 'being strong in the Lord and in His mighty power', and about 'putting on the full armour of God', but it's the bit just after it that spoke to me most - the bit where we are told that we are to do this so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand.
The point about being able to stand seems to me to convey a hugely important part of the message from St Paul, but it could easily be missed alongside the more extrusive eye-catching verses that precede and follow it. The point is, St Paul seems NOT to be telling us that in this life, with the power of Christ, we will gallantly and comfortably be able to sweep away all that tries to batter us down. He is only going as far as to say that even with the power of Christ on our side we will only just about be able to withstand all that is thrown against us, to the point where we'll just about to be able to remain on our feet.
In other words, our Christian walk is not to come with the expectation that we will have it comfortably if we follow Christ, or that we can expect to always be confidently empowered enough to breeze through life unscathed - we are to expect the toughest resistance to all our attempts at good and positive things.
Therefore, it seems to me that the times when we are at our lowest are times when we are genuinely reminded just how hard it was always going to be for us to walk trouble-free with Him. Perhaps even that these tough times are the default experiences to contend with, and that the many experiences we have of hope, joy, exhilaration and positivity are (thank God), in actual fact, the times Christ is the one making our yoke easy and our burden light (Matthew 11:30).
Given that it's so often in the times when everything is going well and life is running smoothly that we tend to be the most lax about retaining a closeness to Him, it could well be that we are often too neglectful to His awesomeness in times when His awesomeness most abounds.
For if we are to take St Paul's words in Ephesians as an accurate commentary about how our best expectations ought to be merely to be able to stand at the end, it seems to say two big things: one, that our Christian journey is one of immense hardship to the end; and two, that any time life feels not that much like a hardship is perhaps a time when the blessings bestowed upon us are more rich and powerful that we can comprehend.
James Knight is a long term contributor to the Network Norwich & Norfolk website and a local government officer based in Norwich. He is also a writer for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
James blogs regularly at The Philosophical Muser
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