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May14TueGod didn’t promise that life would be easy—he promised that he would be with us. May 14, 2019 by Darryn Oldford
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
Some of the most well-meaning—but harmful—theology that has taken root in modern Christianity is the prosperity gospel, the idea that, through faith, God will provide everything you could ever want in every aspect of your life. Although I do believe, as the song by General John Gowans says, “Ours is not a distant God, remote, unfeeling,” I also believe that describing health, finances, love and other positive things as blessings from God makes those of us who are struggling feel like God doesn’t care.
When you or a family member is experiencing depression, struggling with addiction or dying of cancer, hearing others talk about “opening yourself to God’s blessing” is disheartening. When you only have $5 in your chequing account and don’t know how you’re going to afford rent this month, it’s demoralizing. And when you put yourself out there to date, trusting in God to bring the right person into your life after years spent alone, it can be crushing.
Some churches take the idea of God blessing us to the extreme, preaching that the only reason someone doesn’t have these things in their life is because they lack faith. In response, I would like to point out that the entire Book of Job stands against this view. And only one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles was not brutally martyred. If those closest to God suffered this greatly, why do we feel entitled to easy lives?
Although many of us are burdened with the problems of everyday existence, what really causes an issue in our spiritual life is comparing our “blessings” with others. “Older brother sin” is a term that comes from the parable of the Prodigal Son. While the younger brother insulted their father, demanded his inheritance and ran off to enjoy a hedonistic existence for a time, the older brother remained and steadfastly worked for his family. When the Prodigal Son returned, hat in hand, asking for forgiveness, their father lavished upon him a fine robe, a ring, sandals and a feast in his honour. The older brother complained that he had not even received a goat to share with his friends, despite years of staying by his father’s side.
Many of us can relate to the older brother. We read our Bibles, pray, go to church, tithe, volunteer, give to charity, choose our words carefully and generally do our best to live according to a higher standard. And yet, we see those around us receiving the blessings we want in our own lives. We see others thrive while we struggle, even those who are uncharitable, mean and live in opposition to God. We’re promised rewards in heaven, but here and now, when we are dealing with disease, poverty, loneliness and sadness, that provides cold comfort.
If I had an easy answer for why God allows some of us to suffer while others flourish, I would tell you. But God has told us how to proceed with our lives despite our troubles. In Scripture, we read, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
God never promised us health, fame, fortune or love from others if we followed him. In fact, he warned us that following him means living a life of self-sacrifice. But he also promised to be with us.
John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” God loves you like a Father. Although he may never give you everything you ask, his love for you remains the same. All that is left is to trust and obey.
Darryn Oldford is a senior soldier in Toronto.
Photo: © BrianAJackson/iStock.com