I say all this through the lens of American Christianity. As one who has many, many freedoms to live out my faith. One who has never faced a death threat for claiming Christ. One who faces intellectual persecution in the world I live in, minor compared to what other Christians around the world are dealing with, but persecution nonetheless. At this point, there really is not much we have to give up to be a Christian in America.
Some days walking with Jesus is easy. Some days it takes every ounce of focus and energy I have in my body. Some days I am so satisfied in Him, and I feel and believe the truth that I need nothing else. Some days I succumb to worldliness and get wrapped up in caring about things that don’t matter. Sometimes it is a struggle to choose holiness, sometimes it comes naturally (through the power of the Holy Spirit). Some days there is nothing else. Only Jesus. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by how much I need Him, and filled with thankfulness that He is there. Most days it is unexciting, mundane, blind faith. Most days it is choosing to believe what I cannot see and what I cannot know.
It is not guilt. It is not shame over sins I’ve committed. It is not following rules. It is growing, changing. It is fullness, wholeness. It is disciplining my kids and trusting God to change their hearts. It is reading the Bible and praying that He will make me more like Him. It is walking in His favor, clinging to His promises.
I cannot imagine living in this world without knowing Jesus. I’ve been called a pessimist (I prefer realist, but you know, whatever). I know some people only want to see the good in the world, but the bad is so daunting. So painful and depressing. I am continually grateful for my salvation, for a faith that believes there is life after death, that the best is yet to come. I’ve heard that some people think Christianity is for the weak. That it’s a way of coping with evil, to believe there is some nice place called Heaven where nothing bad happens. However, being a Christian doesn’t allow us to escape the world we live in. We still have to deal with it. We still have to endure suffering, and hope doesn’t make pain hurt less. So, I don’t see how someone having no hope makes them any stronger than me.
One of the beautiful and mysterious things about this faith is that it’s different for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, sin is still sin, and the Bible is still the authority no matter who you are. But my relationship with the Lord is uniquely my own, my journey deeply personal. There are lots of freedoms within the confines of Christianity. I hesitate to even use that word, confines, because I think that understanding of Christianity is why many people reject it. But you should know, it’s a really big room we’re in, with lots of space to work out our own salvation. Once you are in the faith, once you have walked with Jesus for a little while, you realize the walls aren’t limiting us, they are protecting us, they are good for us. The things the world values, you realize those things don’t give life. They are not ultimately satisfying. Choosing those things again and again doesn’t fulfill. God knows that life to the full is really found inside the walls. That is where the best is. And it is worth staying inside. The outside really doesn’t compare, once you’ve experienced what’s inside. In fact, eventually, the outside isn’t even appealing anymore. Eventually, it just looks like searching. Maybe if you’re not a Christian you think that sounds arrogant, but when the emptiness comes, when you get weary, when the boredom comes, I hope you’ll consider what I’m saying. Christ really is enough.
Perhaps the even more beautiful part about it all, is that I get to share my unique, personal journey with other people. I get to walk alongside others in this faith, that are on their own journeys. We are all going to the same place. And there is a destination. That’s why we’re walking, or running, or crawling, or maybe even being carried. There is an eternal home at the end of this whole thing, where we get to forever be with Jesus.
Being a Christian is hard…really hard, but it is fresh mercies each day. Jesus is the best friend, the best everything. He knows the darkest, most ugly parts of me, and He loves me like crazy regardless. Following Christ is confidence that I am loved, accepted, known, that His grace covers my sins. That I’m never alone. He is my comfort. He is my satisfaction.
Following Jesus is worth every single thing that it costs.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.