Wednesday, September 20, 2017

God Never Promised a Rose Garden

Too often I hear and read comments from Christian leaders of various disciplines, including within the Church, that if only we would pray more and listen to our hearts more, God would take away the struggle that we are encountering. We are constantly being promised that our Christian lives will be filled with blessings rather than pain, if only we believed, if only we “claimed the Lord as our Savior”, but is that really what God prepares us for?

In today’s Gospel reading the Lord reminds us that life will be a struggle. “You will be delivered by even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends; and some of you they will put to death.” (Luke 21.16) If that isn’t bad enough, the Lord says, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21.17) This is in direct conflict with the many Christian leaders who promise a life of prosperity and happiness.

I’m not surprised that many preach the prosperity gospel considering that our fallen human condition is self-absorbed and ego-driven. Nobody desires to suffer. Nobody enjoys being hated. Nobody considers it a privilege to shunned by family members. It should come as no surprise that churches that preach prosperity and comfort are growing and expanding, while churches that preach a life of struggle and spiritual discipline are hovering below the radar barely known by the neighbors one block away.

But life isn’t about prosperity, and churches aren’t about comfort. They are about preparing our entire being (body and soul – see Genesis 2.7) to live eternally united to God. “But not a hair on your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21.18-19) So bring on the world and all its challenges. The Orthodox Christian way of life has a cure for every pain and wound of life. It won’t always be easy, but it will always lead to God.

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