Today I’m struck anew with how contrary to the world is the Christian life. I’m thinking specifically about how the world will almost without fail define the best way forward in life as the way of ease. That is, the path of least resistance is, by definition, the right path to choose.
Not so in God’s economy.
The Bible is full of reminders about how, in the call of God, things will be difficult rather than easy; complex rather than simple; strenuous rather than leisurely. Indeed, it’s not for no reason that the Bible often calls us to endure and persevere — conditions irrelevant for times of ease. (After all, no one “endures” a day at the beach.)
We get a powerful picture into why God orchestrates things this way when we remember Moses’ words of merciful warning to Israel in Deuteronomy 8:11-19:
Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
Beware times of ease, Moses warns, for it is uniquely then when we are tempted to forget God (notice how Moses says nothing of the Israelites forgetting God in the “great and terrifying wilderness”). And the result of forgetting God is to “surely perish” (v. 19). Indeed, the stakes could not be higher.
So it is that God brings into our lives “wonderful difficulties” as a means of nurturing in us “God remembrance.” I call these circumstances “wonderful” because it’s God who brings them and his ways are always good. I call them “difficulties” because, well, that’s what they are — circumstances that are not easy and call for a deep dependence on God for his strength to endure. It is fitting that God would operate this way. God will have his people glory (i.e., depend) only in him knowing that this most exalts him and results in our eternal good (Jonathan Edwards captured this truth in the 18th century when he preached, “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence“).
Knowing this helps me rejoice in the wonderful difficulties God is using in my life to nurture in me a worshipful remembrance of him — the One in whose presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Cf., Psalm 16:11).
Where else would you rather be?