I’m trying to find where in the Bible it says we need to make ourselves miserable to become disciples of Christ. So far, I’m striking out.
But there must be something in there somewhere that says we have to martyr our happiness to truly follow Jesus. After all, it seems to be all the rage these days. Clearly, if we’re not miserable in some way, we must not truly be on the right path. If we’re really experiencing a life full of joy, we must be doing something wrong.
OK, enough with the sarcasm. Here’s what I really think: I think we often make ourselves miserable in order to make us feel better. Oxymoronic, isn’t it? What I mean is, we are so absorbed with comparing ourselves to one another that we feel like have to prove our level of sacrifice. If others can see the depth of our sacrifice through our misery, they’re bound to be impressed with how faithful we are, aren’t they? And that kind of recognition really strokes our egos in a big way. So we find gratification in our own misery.
Or maybe we do it because it makes us feel more like we deserve God’s grace. Surely, He will be more impressed with the depth of our faith if we can demonstrate how much we suffer for it.
We may even say we’re doing it to please God. But the simple truth of the gospel is, all God really requires of us is that we accept his free gift of grace by believing that Jesus lived, died and was resurrected as the perfect and final sacrifice for our self-serving nature. After we accept that gift, everything else we do is a function of our gratitude for it.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t get much gratitude out of someone making themselves miserable in order to please me. If one of my kids screws up and makes some kind of mistake, it doesn’t really make me feel better to see them beating themselves up for it. I want them to learn from the mistake and get past it. I don’t want them to be miserable…I want them to be happy. Oh, there is that pesky bit of human nature that makes us want to see people suffer for their mistakes, and I suppose a certain amount of suffering does add value to the overall learning process, but that doesn’t mean a LIFETIME of suffering or a LIFESTYLE of suffering.
I think what God wants for us is to own up to the fact that we’ve screwed up, to acknowledge that we’ll continue to screw up, and to accept that He forgave us for it 2000 years ago, continues to forgive us today, and will keep on forgiving us for eternity. We show our gratitude for that forgiveness not by making ourselves miserable in an attempt to earn it, but by living full and fruitful lives, serving Him by serving His people. Humbly, yes, but also joyfully.
We don’t have to be martyrs. Jesus took care of that for us. He doesn’t ask us to die for him, he asks us to live for him.