I’ve always loved Jesus’ teaching of the wise and foolish builders. You know the story—two guys are each getting ready to build their new house. The first guy builds his house on bedrock; the other guy builds his house on sand. I always imagined that 2nd guy being really excited about the awesome beachfront property he got for a steal.
Anyway, as soon as the men get their houses built, the mother of all storms hits. And I’m sure most of you have had your attention called to this fact:
The storm fell upon both men.
I’m not really sure exactly where the notion comes from, but in the developed world (and especially here in the USA) there is a common yet unspoken belief among Christians that becoming a follower of Jesus means you’re not supposed to get hit by storms anymore. I think part of the reasoning goes “God should bless my life and make it easier now that I’m following him, to prove that I made the right choice and to prove to people around me that He’s real.” I guess there is a certain immature logic to that. It does kind of make sense on the surface. But there’s at least two problems with this line of thinking:
First is that the Bible flatly contradicts the notion that life gets easier when you follow Jesus. Jesus specifically says “In this world you will have trouble.” In fact, He says there will be times and places in history where people will kill you for following Him and call it God’s work (and yes, I realize the reverse has also tragically happened throughout history, but that’s another topic for another time).
Look at any character in the Bible; off the top of my head I can’t think of a single one who’s life was blessedly free of problems, stress, and evil. In fact that’s one of the things I love about the Bible and a piece of evidence that the whole thing wasn’t just made up. The Bible presents its ‘heroes’ in all their brokenness and ugliness. There is no hagiography to be found anywhere in the pages of either the Torah or the New Testament (no not even Jesus—the gospels don’t shy away from telling us that his own brothers thought he was mentally ill). In fact, once Jesus came on the scene, his earliest followers found their lives become infinitely more troubled, from an earthly perspective.
The second problem with this thinking is that it’s a very immature way of looking at a relationship with the Divine. It smacks of a quid pro quo arrangement, one in which I give my allegiance to “The One True God,” and in return I’m supposed to get a smoother life. I think this is the crux of it, and the reason I think this is an issue specific to developed, affluent nations is that this is often how life works here. When you do something good for someone, you place them in your debt and expect to get something good in return. And if you live in the USA especially you can add the feeling of ‘special blessing’ that undergirds our whole way of life and looking at the world. Sort of a Manifest Destiny-lite. It’s yet another symptom of ‘cultural Christianity’ that I’ve written about before, where we view God through American lenses rather than biblical ones.
This is so ingrained that we don’t even consciously think this way. In fact most of us, if asked, would probably say that of course we know that’s not the way it works….and then go right on living our spiritual lives as if that’s exactly how it works. I mean, except for the patently phony ‘gospel of wealth’ preachers, you certainly never hear this attitude preached in churches–and yet there it is nonetheless, so often bringing down Christians into a state of depression and failure, feeling like they must be doing something wrong because life didn’t suddenly turn magically into paradise for them. Either that or get mad at God and blame Him for not fixing our problems.
Why do I say all this? Not to call out my fellow travelers on the way of Jesus, but to call myself out. During this last storm season I realized just how badly I had fallen prey to this way of thinking myself. It’s so, SO easy.
Following Jesus is no guarantee of smooth sailing in life. It doesn’t matter what god or guru you follow. You will face storms. Some of them will be minor. Some will be pretty scary. And some will be gale-force hurricanes. For the most part, you can’t control when or where life is going to throw a storm at you.
What you can control is where you build your house.
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not it’s falsity.