Christian, Do Not Respond to Hardship the Way the World Does. Pray and Let God Work in You and Others.
To be a follower of Christ in a world that rebels against Him daily is no simple undertaking. Although, the life of a believer is the most rewarding, purposeful, joyful, and amazing life one could live. To live in service of the Lord Almighty is to live in hope of an eternity with Him in paradise. But additionally, to live for Him is what makes this otherwise mundane, dark, and harsh reality of earthly living not merely bearable, but enjoyable. A life lived for Christ is the only true life, indeed.
But a life lived for Christ, even with its transformative and mysterious beauty, is not always an easy one. I reckon most believers who’ve walked with the Lord for any amount of time would attest to this very truth. Despite its necessity, the Christian walk often involves suffering and hardship. But why, then, is this the case? I’d argue it falls upon two primary claims Jesus asserted: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” and “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you,” (Luke 9:23; John 15:18).
In these verses, it’s clear that believers are called to deny themselves and live differently from the world and, as a result, we will be hated by the world. This alone makes the Christian walk difficult. But if you add in the semantics of these realities, then you realize just how difficult it could get.
I’m sure I could write a book about all the ways we as Christians could and do struggle in this life. But what I want to emphasize now, as well as offer a solution for fighting it, is the urge we have to respond to undesirable circumstances the same way the world does. We’re not called to do this.
We’re not called to return anger with anger, or bitterness with bitterness. We’re not called to follow the saying, “An eye for an eye.” Nor are we called to be impatient, lacking in grace, love, or mercy. No, to strive to imitate Christ, we cannot do any of these things. And yet, we fail daily.
We give into anger, bitterness, and frustration. When we are burned, we want to take matters into our own hands. Often, we choose not to trust, love, or serve anyone because we don’t want to get hurt. We don’t want to regret being generous or kind in case it backfires. We’re concerned that our energy will be wasted if we offer that person forgiveness. It’s far too easy to allow our circumstances to be defined by our emotions, and thus, our emotions define our response. I don’t know about you, but if my emotions were determined by responses when driving in the chaos of the DMV, things wouldn’t look good … for anybody.
But as Christians, everything we do and are ought to be identified with Christ. So, what does that look like in our day-to-day? Fortunately, I don’t have to tell you, because Scripture already has.
When tempted to be angry, James 1:19-20 states, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
When tempted to take revenge, Romans 12:19-21 says to leave it to the Lord. Additionally, “‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
When you think it’s not worth it to love someone or show them grace, Romans 12:14-18 urges, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” And to add to this, C.S. Lewis once said, “Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.”
Look nearly anywhere in the Bible and you will get an example of either how we are called to live, or an example of how we should not live. But reading what Scripture says about how we should respond to our externalities does not make it easy to live out. So, when we are tempted to respond as the world does, and not as the Bible commands, what do we do? First, ensure you are in the Word so that you know what it says. Second, pray.
I’ve written before on the importance of reading Scripture and praying and how they should be daily practices. But in this instance, the solution I can offer for fighting against the urge to respond in a fleshly manner is to be fervent in prayer. I believe prayer is the answer because it’s both loving to the people around you and because it changes the person praying.
Pastor Nate Pickowicz said, “It’s hard to be angry at the people you pray for.” Prayer is our communication with the God of the universe, right? And I’d like to believe most Christians know not to pray in malice, but to saturate our prayers with thanksgiving and praise. To speak to God in prayer about someone is one of the most profound ways we can love them, because He is the only one who can save and transform. He is the only one who can turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh and open eyes to spiritual truth.
It’s loving to pray for someone because it proves that we believe God has the power to change and, by talking to Him, it shows we want that change. Put another way, it implies we want the God we know to be good and just to intervene more than simply wanting their demise. Well, it should, at least. I believe it takes humility and compassion to pray for God to be with those who offend us — a kind of prayer with no room for anger.
And just as importantly as praying for those commonly slandered, prayer helps us not be the slanderers. Being in prayer is what helps us imitate Christ in our responses to any and everything. Prayer is a way we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, as Scripture calls us to do. I mentioned that prayer evokes love, humility, patience, and grace. But prayer also stirs in us our affection for Christ, which then serves to deepen our relationship with Him.
In short, I don’t believe prayer, rooted in humility and love for Jesus, can produce nearly anything but fruit. I believe prayer is good — genuinely good, and absolutely necessary.
Pastor and theologian Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is the best response to hatred.” But ultimately, we don’t pray to check off a spiritual box that makes us feel good. We pray because we love the Lord and believe its power is centered on the one to whom we pray. Pastor H.B. Charles Jr. put it this way: “God changes things, not prayer. Prayer works not merely because of the words we say, or the praises we claim, or the faith we express. Prayer works because God hears and answers prayer.”
Christian, when faced with adversity, do not respond as the world does. Instead, pray and let God do the work both in you and in others.
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.