Jesus and First World Problems

I stumbled across a meme the other day that really struck me wrong.

Maybe it’s just me, but I cringed from the first moment I saw it:

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Funny, to be sure. Poignant. Worth a thought. It seems to be saying that because Christ suffered greatly, our sufferings aren’t worth comparing.

And I don’t like it. I don’t think Scripture likes it.

Perhaps the problem here is simply the nature of the internet, the inevitable misfire of a simple image broadcasted indiscriminately. We really need “HERE’S MY SPECIFIED AUDIENCE” tags on everything. Because for many of its readers, it’s probably the last thing they need.

Let me ask this: how would you feel if you paid a counselor to sit there and tell you that you’re not really hurting and that it could be worse? You’d probably feel…out of his office, quickly. And rightfully so. No counselor worth his salt would dismiss a human struggle.

I think God, being the Wonderful Counselor, is a step above that kind of incompetence.

Now…I get the spirit of the picture. Can we take our earthly complaints too far? Probably. The world is, admittedly, speckled with whiners. Broken nails and busted pipes are perhaps worth a sigh to God, but not a prayer of weeping. Self-pity is real. It’s not the same as reaching out to God. There is perspective. Part of a healthy outlook is keeping in view the provision, safety, and services we enjoy that most of the world can only imagine.

But consider this…

Suggesting that middle-class Americans have nothing to gripe about, is equivalent to suggesting that being a middle-class American is what should be bringing us joy.

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Stuck Between Hope and Surrender

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“God, I feel stuck!”

Those were my words to God that morning. I’d been wrestling with him in prayer for the millionth time. This time, my pursuit of God seeed to be taking the form of a collision between two opposing dynamics. Like a surface gale fighting a strong ocean current headed the other way.

“God, I feel stuck!”

Let me try to describe how I got there. There are things we desire in this life. How we handle those things is one of the most profound tests of our faith. Like many, I remember when I first began feeling the weight of permanent disappointment. It was in my mid-twenties. The sense was suddenly clear: some stories just never have a happy ending. At least not in this life.

As I pushed into God’s opinion on such things, I discovered two very opposing forces at work.

I’d see that Jesus spent a lot of time offering his help to our earthly troubles, in everything from demon possession to a wedding party that ran out of wine. But I also learned that if even Jesus did not have his every prayer answered, we certainly will not. “Many trials” are part of the deal.

“God, I feel stuck!”

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What an Unbelieving Air Force Sergeant Taught Me About Obeying God

f-16-66232_960_720During my time in the Air Force, I had a boss named Sergeant Carlson.

He was a solid leader, the kind you talk about years later and would still gladly shake his hand. He had a gift for balancing the needs of the mission with genuine concern for the guys under his charge. We knew he cared, and we also knew he wouldn’t hesitate to snap us back in line if we needed it. (As with any group of young punks, there were days when I needed it.)

A season came in which I was not performing my job well. I got two Letters of Counseling (LOCs) in a short time span, one from Sgt. Carlson, one from another sergeant in our office. My mistakes had grounded a couple jets from their scheduled sorties. I had earned both reprimands straight up, and I had just enough maturity at that point in my life to accept them with humility.

But inside, the story was different: I struggled a lot less to accept one of the reprimands. You can probably guess that the easy one was Sgt. Carlson’s.

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