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)
If you have found that the life of faith is much harder than it was described to you, let me apologize. You should have been warned. The Christian life is indeed difficult. I know many Christians love to say things like, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” But God’s “wonderful plan” is oftentimes difficult and painful.
Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). The Apostle Paul tells us to be patient and consider others worthy of more honor than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). In all circumstances, we are to always pray (1 Thess. 5: 17–18).
Then, consider how the world hates us (John 15:19) and the devil attacks us (1 Peter 5:8). As if that were not enough, we as believers are now spiritually sensitive to our own sin, and so our own inward corruption plagues and pains us (Rom. 7). Being a Christian is no guarantee of worldly prosperity or pleasure. In fact, we are promised that suffering will accompany us as we follow Jesus. Jesus even says, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:38).
So yes, the Christian life is harder than you might think. But it is also glorious. When I was a brand-new believer, the words of an old pastor were very helpful. He said, “The Christian life is not easy, but it is better.” I lost my non-Christian friends. I had to ask for forgiveness and make restitution in the lives of many people. And over the past twenty-five years, I have found that following Jesus leads into both peaceful pastures and dangerous wildernesses. The Christian life is not easy, but it is better. It is good. It is glorious.
What is it that makes the life of faith so good? It is not the absence of conflict but the knowledge that God is ours and we are His. It is the knowledge that though He calls us to obey, He has accepted His Son’s obedience in place of our failure, making us perfectly acceptable in His sight.
There is glory in knowing that His Spirit is working in us to accomplish good works. And there is the assurance that even in our suffering, there is a divine purpose that works for our good and God’s glory. This is what makes the Christian life so much “better.”
Jesus tells us that we will have peace in Him, but we will have trouble in the world. But this world that brings tribulation into our lives is a world that has been overcome by our Savior (John 16:33). This leaves us with a dual experience. At the very same moment, in the very same circumstance, we can have both hardship and heaven, peace and pain, groaning and glory.