Charles Dickens spent a career putting memorable characters in the tough settings found in his culture. In fact, one of his novels is titled, Hard Times. Dickens’ setting in the industrial age of England is not a unique setting. Though the names and the locations may change, life can be more than a little challenging.
Somehow our culture seems to think that life is supposed to be easy. This sentiment permeates not just our culture, but also the church. When difficulties arise, we want to know who sinned or we ask whether has God forgotten us.
The American Dream is one of comfort and ease. We’ve clung to a view that each generation would have it easier than the previous. Technology has filled us with hopes of eradicating all that would bring hardship. Even in the church the prosperity gospel preachers have convinced many that faith in God equates to avoiding pain.
However, a look at biblical teaching reveals the opposite. As early as in the Garden of Eden, labor in work and childbirth foreshadow a world of pain that will last until God has made all things new.
This morning I read through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I was struck by his comments preparing his hearers for difficulty. Sure he taught us about a Father who loves us and provides for us, but we cannot ignore the verses which speak of the hardships.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
–Matthew 5:10-12, ESV
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
–Matthew 6:34, ESV
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
–Matthew 7:14, ESV
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
–Matthew 7:25, ESV
Jesus taught that the way is hard and each day has its own troubles. The elements beat against us. We will suffer persecution.
The hope of the Christian is not that we will avoid hard times. It is that at the end of a hard journey, we will experience the restored heavens and earth in perfect peace with the Lord.