I don’t know many Christians who genuinely feel like the Christian life should be marked by an unceasing, unfailing, unrelenting happiness. The kind of victorious Christian life that you see peddled on TV. But I do know many who aren’t sure if they’re doing it right. That is, they might know in once sense that Christianity isn’t supposed to mean a life free from difficulty and pain, but practically, they’re not too sure what that really means. They’re worried that God is punishing them for something, but they have no idea what.
I’m entirely not sure what it is that we do that perpetuates this idea. But I do know that it’s not true. Charles Spurgeon understood this, and actually talked about the Christian life as something more than some sort of smile and sunshine faux-joy. He wrote,
The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God’s Word, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;” and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be “As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the “green pastures” by the side of the “still waters,” but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” Oh! say not so, thou who art walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.1
To be a Christian is not to be excluded from sorrow. To follow Jesus is not to walk a path free from difficulty. But to be a Christian is to be able to walk through the shadows and sorrow with hope, knowing that he will come and bring our sorrows to an end. But until that day, we walk the path where joy mixes with sorrow.
- Morning and Evening, April 29 Morning reading. ↵