Thursday, May 22, 2008

Difficulty, Suffering, And Hope

Rob Bell writes in his final chapter of Velvet Elvis these helpful thoughts. Ministry has been really, really hard for me lately. Plenty of suffering. And it's been easy to lose perspective, misjudge reality, become confused about my responsibilities, and to worry about what's next. These following thoughts contain helpful reminders to me about the inherent difficulty of following Jesus, the natural suffering that often results from loving and serving, and the possibility that it is all good. Maybe you'll find these thoughts helpful too.

To be this kind of person - the kind who selflessly serves - takes everything a person has. It is difficult. It is demanding. And we often find ourselves going against the flow of those around us. Which is why we are reclaiming the simple fact that Jesus said the way was narrow. We are honest about this, especially to our friends who wouldn't say they are Christians. Very few people in our world are offering anything worth dying for. Most of the messages we receive are about how to make life easier. The call of Jesus goes the other direction: It's about making our lives more difficult. It is going out of our way to be more generous, disciplined and loving and free. It is refusing to escape and become numb to and check out of this broken, fractured world.

And so we are embracing the high demands of Jesus' call to be one of his disciples. We are honest about it. We want our friends to know up front that the costs are high, which is what is so appealing about Jesus - his vision for life takes everything we have.

This is what we are all dying for - something that demands we step up and become better, more focused people. Something that calls out the greatness that we hope is somewhere inside of us.

Not only is the way narrow, but it involves suffering. To truly engage with how the world is, our hearts are going to be broken again and again. And so we are learning how to suffer well. Not to avoid it but to feel the full force of it. It is important that churches acknowledge suffering and engage it - never, ever presenting the picture that if you follow Jesus, your problems will go away. Following Jesus may bring on problems you never imagined.

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