After being a pastor for over twenty-five years, it’s been my observation that when life gets difficult and painful, we all tend to play what I call the “if-only” game.
“If only I could change (fill in the blank), then everything would be wonderful.”
“If only my health were restored…” or “If only my husband would have a change of heart… or “If only my boss would be transferred… then my life would be wonderful.”
This is the lie of the grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side mentality.
As Christians, especially in America, we play this game too. Only, we believe in the false premise: God wants me to be happy. In fact, we think He wants our personal fulfillment, happiness, and good emotions about ninety-nine percent of the time.
As a result, we mistakenly believe that if our situation, job, marriage, and relationships are so painful and stressful, then it can’t possibly be God’s will for our life. So we quit our jobs, divorce our spouses, and give up too soon, expecting something better.
The truth is, running from adversity or from conflict in relationships does not solve problems, but it compounds them.
It’s true that God does want to bless us and give us a full life, but His primary concern isn’t that we always feel happy or that our life goes our way.
If this were true, there wouldn’t be Bible passages that say things like,“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)And,“Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you…” (1 Peter 4:12)
So, how should we face difficult times? And what’s God’s message for us when we’re under pressure?
The Bible tells us we need to have patience and perseverance.
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 4:7-11)
The good news is we can have patience and perseverance, no matter what we’re facing because we have a hope that is unshakable. We have a God who is sovereign. We have a King who is returning. We have purposes that cannot be changed. And we have a God who is full of love and compassion, who is working both in us and through us, for His good will.
If you’re facing a difficult season right now, consider that through your trial, God wants to develop something inside you that is going to be better, and deeper, and greater than you ever dreamed!
So, hang in there! Don’t give up. And don’t give in, because God is in control.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip