Sometimes, following Jesus isn’t the easiest thing to do. Life seems to get in the way, plans that we’ve worked so hard to bring to fruition change, sometimes, it seems we’re slogging through knee-deep mud, and life just isn’t fun anymore.
Some of Jesus’ disciples found this out. They had seen Jesus feed 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread, and they’d seen Him walk on water! They must have thought that life was going to be cushy walking with Jesus. They were more concerned with what He could give them.
Then He began to tell them that walking with Him wasn’t always going to be easy. He tells them that instead of being concerned about their physical food, they should be more concerned with their Spiritual food. He begins talking about how He is the bread of life and that no one can come to God, the Father, except through Him. They’re still thinking of the food they got when He fed the 5,000, and they ask for a sign. They want Him to do something for them and then they would believe in Him. Then Jesus begins to tell them about how He must become our sacrifice with His death on the Cross and they must partake in His suffering. Then in John 6:66, the Bible says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” When things got hard, they walked away.
Back when I was a teenager, there was a popular song playing on the radio, “Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson. The song isn’t a Christian song, but one phrase in that song has stuck with me when I think of what God has promised when we walk with Him. The phrase says, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” God never said that walking with Him would always bring us sunshine, roses, and no problems. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we have planned, or situations hit us so hard that we lose our balance and get knocked off our feet.
It is during those times when our commitment to Jesus really shows up. What do we do when all we’ve worked so hard for falls completely apart? What about when we’ve asked God for something and prayed so hard for and He says “no”? What about when we’ve been persecuted by unbelievers? How do we react? Following Jesus means staying with Him even in the hard times. It means sticking to our commitment to follow Him.
It is during those times that we need to hold on to His hand all the tighter. It is then that we need to draw closer to Him. God promises that when plans change or life gets hard, He will be with us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV) Don’t get disillusioned or be so easy to give up.
Ok, so things aren’t going the way we want, are we going to just throw our hands up and say, “Forget it!”? The hard times not only help us in that they strengthen our faith, but they also build our character and teach us to rely on God.
There have been times in my life when I have wanted to just chuck it all and say, “Forget it!”, but when I really thought about it, there was nowhere else to go. My only hope in those difficult days was at Jesus’ side. When I look back at those days, I see how walking with Him has made me stronger in my faith, and when the next difficulty came along, I was better able to withstand that trial than the struggle before. It is when we are in the valley that we grow, not on the mountain top. It is also then that we learn how faithful He is, and we learn how much He loves us.