Mountaintop experiences or steep, rocky paths?
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
Everyone wants to see the lame walk, the blind see and numbers added to the church daily from those being saved through faithful ministry borne from a life of discipleship. But sometimes faithful discipleship looks a lot more like Stephen than Paul – mundane, unnoticed and underappreciated, painful, or even deadly.
Not everyone’s story of faithfully listening to God and closely following Jesus leads to great success and amazing miracles. Instead, many of us find our faithful discipleship leads to the struggles instead.
I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.
In my relatively short 35 years of life – 15 in pastoral ministry – my experience has more-often-than-not been that of struggle and pain instead of miracles and mountain-top celebrations. A failed church plant, depression, chronic disease, multiple miscarriages and deep wounds from words and actions of church members: these are the road markers along the path of discipleship for me.
In the church, we too often expect faithfulness to lead to happiness and success, when in fact Jesus calls his disciples to take up their cross and follow him. I believe that God is big enough, wise enough and powerful enough to redeem for good the pain we encounter as we follow along with him. God has used my struggles to conform me more to his image, and given me opportunities to serve others that I would have been ill-equipped-for otherwise.
On you will go though the weather be foul…and face up to your problems whatever they are.
Maybe our greatest encouragement as disciples comes not from revelling in the ease of life but through Jesus’ redemption of our suffering.
(Thanks to Dr. Seuss for the quotes from Oh, The Places You’ll Go!)
—Ben Kramer is a member at Parliament Community Church, Regina, and the Saskatchewan representative on the CCMBC Board of Faith and Life.