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As human beings, we spend much of our time seeking to eradicate pain or suffering. We see doctors, take medication, and even try out the latest fad diet, all in the name of healthy, pain-free living. We assume that if something is painful or uncomfortable, it must be wrong and should be removed immediately!
Interestingly, we often apply this same theory to our spiritual lives. We assume that the Christian life is meant to be pleasant and pain free, with God lavishing blessing after countless blessing upon us, and when it isn’t that way we assume our faith must be lacking or weak.
We’ve bought into this version of Christianity because we’ve convinced ourselves that Christianity is about conforming God into our image rather than conforming ourselves into his. By nature, we are wired for selfish gain, comfortable living, and pain-free indulgence. By grace, we are invited into a radically different way of living, the way of the cross that turns us away from self-love and embraces the challenge of living fully for the sake of Jesus, even when it is painful and costs us our comfort or security.
In Lent, as Jesus asks us to come after him, we must remember where his journey led.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” The Christian life is an invitation into daily self-denial, putting to death our rights to pleasure or self-gain. It is an invitation to die to our old selves in order to learn what it means to be truly alive. It is the paradoxical heart of the Christian message, that through death we find life.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:8
Though it can certainly be painful to live for Christ and not ourselves, we must trust that it is the only way to find real and lasting joy, peace, and happiness. As we journey towards Easter Sunday, may we have the courage today to trust Jesus, take up our crosses, and follow him!
The Rev. Tripp Prince
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