Struggles in life! We all have had them, have them, or will have them! They come at the hands of family and friends, or because of finances or health, as a result of spiritual, emotional, or physical issues, job-related or church pressures, or situations from the past, present, and future! Life really wouldn’t be life without struggles, tribulation, persecution, and cares! Even in the well-known, Parable of the Sower, we are assured tribulation and persecution comes in this world. Matthew 13:20-22 “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” Once we know struggles are part of life – we can move on to overcoming instead of trying to get rid of them!
The question for Christians is how to live a victorious, joy-filled life in the midst of tribulation, persecution, and struggles while the answer is found by focusing on “how to live”! You might be surprised to know we are to hate our lives! In fact, Jesus has some very strong words when it comes to loving and hating our lives! We can and should be thankful for the life God has given us but when our love for life overtakes our longing for eternal life we lose our life! John 12:25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” We might not admit how much we love our lives but our actions reveal more about our passions than words! If we let the truth of this Scripture resonate in our spirits and grab hold of the love/hate relationship in our lives we are well on our way to answering the question “how to live” in the midst of struggles.
Most people spend much of their time attempting to make life struggle-less instead of realizing struggles actually keep us from loving this life! Think about that for a moment! If we live problem-free lives with no challenges or struggles, there would be little reason to hate this life. I realize “hate” is a strong word but it is the Word of God so its strength is appropriate! Though it is true we pray God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, this never insinuates all problems and troubles are removed from this world! Trials, tribulations, persecution, and the cares of this world are inevitable. The question remains “How to live in the midst of them?”
Another lie that keeps us from knowing how to live is thinking we don’t “deserve” troubles in life or we should be immune to harm and danger because of our faith in Jesus. Thus, when troubles come we are already defeated because we are “thinking” and “complaining” instead of “believing” Him in His Word! Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Right there we are assured trouble every day of our lives! And we are told what to do about those troubles. Don’t worry! That might not sound like great news but it is! Usually we call it a “good” day if we get through it “trouble-free”! But a good day in the Lord is when we don’t worry about tomorrow while living a victorious “today” with all the troubles it brings! AND, then there is more good news!
We are alerted to the reality of tribulation in life again in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” If you missed it – right there Jesus gives us the answer of “how to live”! Being IN Him! Once we KNOW and ACCEPT troubles and tribulation as part of this life we then move on to knowing the privilege of “how to live” IN Jesus instead of just WITH Jesus.
Many Christians spend their entire lives either walking with Jesus or being carried by Him instead of getting in Jesus! This is the imagery in the beautiful poem “Footprints in the Sand”! It is true we walk with Jesus and He carries us at times! It is equally true He never leaves or forsakes us, is always with us, encourages us to keep going, leads and keeps us under the shelter of His wings. But don’t miss the overriding longing of His heart…that we be “IN” Him.
Even a “quick” perusal of Scripture shows us “in Christ” or “in Jesus” is mentioned about ninety-five times depending on the translation. Compare that to being “with Jesus” which is only referenced about fourteen times or “carried by Jesus” one time, or the eleven verses about “following” Jesus. Yes, we should definitely follow, walk and stay under Jesus because they are all biblical positions with our Savior! But since the Word of God speaks more often about being IN Him, we should speak more often about being IN Him!
Recently while worshipping and praying with some friends God showed us how to transition from walking beside Him to walking “in” Him through a little vision.
Imagine you and Jesus walking hand in hand with Him on your left! You are enjoying your stroll, having great conversation about life when suddenly troubles come in your path and trip you up. So you let go of His Hand to regain your balance but troubles keep coming to throw you off-balance. At first you completely disengage from your conversation with Jesus to collect yourself but when there is a little “break” in the action you resume talking to Him. However, now your conversation revolves around the troubles you are experiencing on your walk. He is listening attentively hoping you remember He is right there beside you! You go on and on explaining your troubles to Him, describing how difficult it is to keep walking when the attacks are coming, exclaiming how unfair it is that these bad things keep happening when you are trusting Him, telling Him how hard you are trying and maybe He could offer a helping hand! (Remember you let go of His hand) You are so absorbed in your rendition you almost forget He is still there, still listening, still waiting for you to stop talking and start trusting Him. Then imagine Jesus saying “Step back – Step over – Step In!”
It was like a dance! In fact, we did get up and “do” the steps! Life is all about dancing IN Jesus not dancing with life! When we feel overwhelmed with life it is likely because we are walking WITH Jesus not IN Him! So, let’s dance!
First, “Step Back”, left foot first, placing you behind and to the right of Jesus. In this place you are keenly aware of not walking or talking with Jesus which makes you stop complaining and dealing with the issues of life! Then “Step Over”, left foot first, placing you directly behind Jesus where He is all you see! This is a great place to be but not the best place since you can still get easily distracted by all the troubles and tribulations in life! Lastly, “Step IN” where you experience completeness in Jesus! The problems of life still rage but IN Him there is oneness giving you confidence and boldness
Step back, Step Over, Step In! It really is that easy. We stop telling Jesus about our problems since He already knows, we step back from engaging in all the struggles and trials in life outside of Him, we step over to see only Jesus in front of us, and then we step in Him where we are completely immersed in His presence! During our prayer time we got up and did a little dance IN Jesus to solidify this truth and even now, when troubles, problems, tribulations rise up, we remind ourselves to “Step Back, Step Over, and Step In!” Try it! You will discover how good it is to dance IN Jesus and live IN Him! Struggles? Yep, they are part of life! Being IN Jesus? He IS life!