Just Because It Hurts, Doesn’t Mean You’re Doing It Wrong

If you find yourself daily pursuing God and still running into challenges, grief, pain, and exhaustion, then I would like to say, “Welcome.” My name is Brooke, I have loved Jesus for eight years, and I get it. I’m with you. You’re not alone, you’re not doing life wrong, and your pain is not a product of being “out of the will of God.”

As Christians, we are often under the impression that once a person meets Christ, life should be exciting and fun all the time. This Hollywood concept creeps into our lives in more ways than we realize. For example, many of us get tricked into thinking that Christian marriage should always be full of compatibility, affirmation, encouragement, and sex. Or that a job, especially if it’s in “ministry”, should be totally and completely fulfilling, every moment, every project, every day.

I have been a Christian long enough to know that this is not true, but I am not immune to this way of thinking. And in fact, I have been bitten by disappointment more than once for believing that my life should, eventually, look this way.

Let me get one thing straight – life with Jesus is full of purpose, meaning, joy, peace, excitement, and fun. The beauty of having a relationship with the King is that any sort of work is Kingdom work, and anything can be used to glorify him.

We know this, but sometimes we don’t experience it. Sometimes, even in the best season, we don’t feel the best. This is what I want to emphasize today: Faithful Christians still experience disappointment and discouragement, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve screwed up or have been disobedient. It’s just a product of being a human, and it’s meant to bring us to a place of perseverance and steadfastness.  

Although I try to purge the idealized image of a “perfect-happy-never-sad-always-sunny Christian life” from my striving heart, there are two major areas that I am susceptible to a skewed perception: love and calling.

Misconception #1 – Love

A little more than a year ago I got married. I knew going into it that Zach, my husband, would not “complete me.” I knew that he was imperfect. He had candidly shared past mistakes with me and we walked through disagreements, sin, and faults together and in pre-marital counseling. What I didn’t realize is how much real love would hurt, and how often I would find myself disappointed. I had hopes and dreams about what every-day life would look like as a married couple.

For example, I am a “words of affirmation” gal. There is nothing that makes me glow like time spent in discussion and exhortation with the one that I love. This is something that Zach does, but it’s not his primary expression of love. Maybe it’s because I’m a female, or maybe it’s just me, but I always expect more affirmation than my husband thinks is necessary. To him “good job” is an exuberant expression of honest affection. My question is “Why was it good? What did you like? How can I do better?” But that’s just not how he thinks. It’s not a poor reflection on his character, just a difference in communication.

Nonetheless, I felt like I was lacking in the area of positive reinforcement. But what’s worse than feeling a certain disappointment, is the feeling that if you had done something differently, you wouldn’t be experiencing this. I realized that I was holding to the belief that since both my husband and I love Jesus and love each other, we wouldn’t hurt, disappoint, or displease each other. Therefore, I began to assume that I had done something wrong.

Misconception #2 – Calling

Five years ago I followed a life-long passion and what I believe was God’s voice, and I ended up with the job of my dreams. Essentially, I get to teach the Word of God to 50 brilliant, passionate missionaries. And even more than that, I get to walk with them through the school; through the moments of revelation and tears, through the sin and the redemption, through the reconciliation of the past and the launching toward the future. Have you ever heard of someone living their “calling” at twenty years old?

And yet, in the midst of working the job of my dreams, I realized that work is… well, work. Once again, I find myself with misplaced expectations, believing that if my job was my calling, it wouldn’t feel like work. Every day would be exciting and I would jump out of bed in the morning. Monday would be a pleasure.

But that’s not how I felt every day. There are days when I’m flat-out exhausted. There are weekends when I’m working long hours on tedious projects. And to be honest, there are a few critical aspects of my job (in ministry, mind you) that I don’t particularly love, and/or am not good at.

Again, I am caught believing that since God called me here, I shouldn’t be feeling this way.

Well friends, I have to confess…

I was wrong.

What I have learned lately is that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment if we live under the impression that we will never disappoint or be disappointed. Obedience to God doesn’t always look like the “straight and narrow.” Sometimes it’s narrow and bumpy and winding. And that means that sometimes, we (yes, even Christians) get hurt, feel misguided, bored, purposeless, undervalued, and disappointed.

The best things in life might be free, but they are not easy. They require effort, determination, forgiveness, and staying on the course. It’s the things that push us toward God, not toward comfort, that are worth spending our lives on. The idea that the Christian life, love, and vocation is easy is a lie. If you are a Christian, then you are a human and you are not without fault. You are not without emotion. And you are not invincible. That means that people will hurt you, and you will hurt them. That means that your job will be difficult at times – even if it’s the one you’ve been dreaming about all your life. How do I know this? Look at the life of Jesus. If anyone has suffered, been disappointed, betrayed, hurt, burdened, worked tirelessly and been exhausted, Jesus has done so even more. And yet, he lived the most purposeful, glorifying, impactful, God-fearing, loving, and fulfilling life that has ever existed.

If you are a Christian and you have an imperfect marriage – you’re normal, and you’re not alone. In many cases it is the lows that make the highs possible. It’s the moments of rock-bottom and raw vulnerability that create closeness and intimacy. It’s the pain mutually experienced and the forgiveness lent that establishes longevity and impenetrable friendship.

And when it comes to “calling”, no project worth your time will be without sacrifice. If you are tired, staying up late, bearing with difficult people, shedding blood, sweat, and tears – good. What better cause is there to exhaust yourself with, than to work well with the job God has put before you? What better reason do you have to be spent than to be spent for the sake of the Gospel? Just because it requires effort or involves mundane moments doesn’t mean that it’s not your “calling.” (And I’m not just talking about jobs that are technically within the boundaries of ministry. Any vocation in which the worker “seeks first the kingdom” will be glorifying to the King.)

So yes, sometimes life hurts, love leaves you raw, and work feels like work. Even then, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you’re “doing it wrong.” That’s just life. And it’s totally worth it. Don’t give up and don’t back down when it doesn’t feel as good as you think it should. As James so eloquently put it, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). So, press on friends. Your life – the victories and the trials – done through the guidance of the Spirit for the glory of the Father, are the clearest pictures of the gospel that the world will ever see.

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