I have discovered a prayer that solves my problems every time.
Nah, just kidding.
But fess up. You wanted that sentence to be true, right?
You’re just like me. You want God to be like a giant EASY button. Go ahead. Admit it.
When difficulties come, I want to pray, then—poof!—watch the challenges part like the Red Sea. I want miracles, baby, miracles and checks in the mail, supernatural healing, and doors opened wide because I want to enter.
Yeah, that’s what I’d like. Only that’s not a relationship with God. That’s a magic show in Vegas.
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover, and I’ve never found a verse where God promises to iron out all the rough patches. In fact, introducing Jesus to life’s troubles can often make them worse.
Take money, for example—specifically, the lack of it. Finances can be challenging but add Jesus to the mix, and I can eliminate a whole world of easy avenues for getting cash like stealing, gambling, cheating on taxes, lying, or trading in illegal goods. (I talk tough, but I’ve never considered any of those things. Without God in my life, though, who knows what options might appeal?)
Nope. God complicates everything.
And He’s not a fan of taking the easy path. You’ve read the stories of men and women who followed God. Like Joseph. (You know, the one with the Broadway musical.) What a raw deal he got for thirteen years.
Sold into slavery by his brothers, he worked hard and remained faithful to God, even resisting the advances of Potiphar’s lusty wife. What was his reward? Prison. No abracadabra escape for him either. He stayed in jail for a long time—always faithful, still working hard. When he was finally released, there was reward but he served years in the trenches, years of being faithful with no reward in sight. Then consider Moses. Right from his first basket ride down the Nile, you know he’s a baby with a destiny, but God didn’t raise the dead Egyptian Moses killed just to spare him some trouble. No, Moses had to head to the hills and put in forty years shepherding sheep, drinking goat milk daiquiris poolside at a Podunk oasis in the middle of nowheresville. Serving in self-exile about as far from palace life as a prince can be.
Moses invested lots of hard work and faithful living before his showdown with Pharaoh and the fancy trick with the serpent staff. Then, after the great adventure with plopping frogs and parting waters, did he get to set his life on cruise control until heaven? No way. He was assigned forty years of walking a pack of whining Israelites through the same circle of desert. He got only a glimpse of the Promised Land in the end.
Sorry, loved ones. We don’t serve the God of the Magic Wand or a genie in a bottle. Our wish is not His command. Those of us who keep waiting for the appearance of the holy abracadabra in our lives wrestle most often with discouragement, frustration, and disappointment with God.
That struggle indicates we’re not turning to God to be with God. We’re turning to God hoping for a big payout, sending up prayers like quarters in a slot machine, flipping through Scripture like a cosmic roulette wheel, hoping for a holy roll of the dice to land sixes and sevens in our favor. We’re not looking for God; we’re looking for easy. Easy is a button at Staples, a gimmick, an ad campaign invented on Madison Avenue.
God is hard, but God is worth knowing. Period.
Jesus framed it this way for His disciples: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In this world, you will have tribulation.
In Me, you may have peace. Our peace is to be in Him—not in miracles, not in parted waters, answered prayers, or optimal circumstances. That’s the miracle. In the midst of trouble, He parts the water of our fears and transforms the serpent of anxiety into the staff of peace because we know Him.
I’m just like you. I fall into bad attitudes and start holding my breath trying to force God’s hand to wave the magic wand, pronounce the holy abracadabra, and make my life the Disney cruise I want it to be. He loves me, so He holds out for more. He pushes and pushes until I remember that I came to Him for Him. That I remain with Him for Him.
And like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, I am learning to say, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24).
If all I wanted was a rabbit out of a hat, I would continue to seek the holy abracadabra. But I want more. I want to walk in the way of the God of the universe, so I’ll seek Him. I will forgo easy. Because it’s not about easy. It’s about Jesus.
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Ponder the Perplexities:
You’re tired. I get it.
It’s been too long, too much, too hard. You’re tired of your own voice. Maybe you’ve even stopped praying. I’ve been there.
Try this: list all your needs, worries, and concerns. Take it to a trusted believing friend and ask him or her to pray for those things this week while you enjoy the fellowship of the Lord without your requests taking up prayer space. The “vacation” will do you good and may renew your vision.
Read Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50. Note times Joseph might ave lost heart. Review your own timeline, and consider what might be different if you had lost heart during any of your past valleys. Memorize Psalm 34:19—Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
Remember: That’s the miracle. In the midst of trouble, God parts the water of our fears and transforms the serpent of anxiety into the staff of peace because we know Him.
(Excerpted from Running from a Crazy Man by Lori Stanley Roeleveld, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.)
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Who hasn’t at least occasionally thought that the Christian life should be relatively free from trouble? Yet the Psalms tell us that those who are righteous have “many” afflictions. Why do you suppose that is? Have you ever wished God operated more like an “EASY” button? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Lori Stanley Roeleveld
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Jesus lover. Storyteller. Disturber of hobbits. Making comfortable Christians continually late for dinner. Blogger. Wife. Mother. Part-time dragon-slayer. Not available for children’s parties. You can find Lori at her website, www.loriroeleveld.com, or on her blog,Deeper with Jesus in Rhode Island, or on her front porch, writing.