Life is not always easy. At times life can be downright discouraging and overwhelming. Living in a fallen world, we anticipate that struggles will occur, yet sometimes we can still be taken aback. Especially when it seems that the rough times come in the midst of serving Christ and others.
“Wait a minute! Aren’t I supposed to be blessed and have smooth roads in the service of God?” A normal reaction. But a theologically misinformed response, unfortunately fed by a health and wealth prosperity gospel and spiritual consumerism mentality. Just a cursory look at the lives of the faithful in the Old Testament, the lives of the apostles, and the life of Jesus will quickly dispel the external road of blessing myths.
This is not to say, of course, that there will not be external blessings, joy, peace, and satisfaction in life and ministry. Experience and Scripture both testify to these in addition to the hardships. So, it is important to have a balanced view of what God has and has not promised in order to avoid having an overly pessimistic view (which drains oneself and others of joy in the Lord) or an overly optimistic view (which can be rocked when the hardships do come).
I have found What God Hath Promised by Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) to be a helpful reminder of what God has not promised and what God has promised. It is an encouragement to dig into God’s abundant grace when life and ministry get rough and a reminder to thank the Lord for his grace when experiencing times of satisfaction and joy:
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.