Have you ever woken up and had a hard time getting going? Has the day seemed to go from bad to worse? Every interaction you have seems to struggle?
The Struggle Bus is real. It’s a bus that all of us get on from time to time. Some of us may feel like we have gotten on once and never gotten off. This is something that has been true of humanity since Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3:8-19. If we take a look at the curse that God pronounced over them, we see some of what the struggle of humanity looks like. When God explains the consequences of their sin, He discusses some specific areas of struggle that Adam and Eve (and humanity by extension) will deal with until we are in eternity with God. God tells Eve that she would struggle through childbirth and by extension with raising children because of her sin. God also tells her that she will have difficulty in her marriage because of her sin. God tells Adam that he will struggle with painful labor all the days of his life. Sin had taken Adam and Eve from a life that allowed them to freely tend the garden without worries of struggle, to a life that was one of hardship on a daily basis. I’m not going to break these areas of struggle in their entirety, but I want to focus on how our daily struggles relate to our relationships with God and with others.
Now, let’s turn to Matthew 22:36-40. When you read this you see Jesus answering the Pharisees question about what is the greatest commandment. The Pharisees are attempting to trap Jesus by making him chose one of the 10 Commandments so that they can pin him down about not picking one of the other 9. Jesus seems to be in a no-win situation. He knocks it out of the park by telling them that all of the commandments boil down to 2 things: love God with all that you are and love others as yourself. Now, you may be asking, “what does this have to do with struggle?” Sin entering the world has caused all of us to deal with the struggle on a daily basis. This means that we will struggle in the areas of loving God and loving others. What does this mean for our everyday lives?
Sin has distorted the perfect relationship that Adam and Eve had with God. This means that our relationships with God are distorted because of sin and death reigns in us (Romans 5:12). Paul writes about his struggle between loving God and loving the flesh in Romans 7:14-24. Those that believe in Christ have a desire to love God with all that we are, but we still struggle against our desire to satisfy the flesh and its desires. Our struggle against those fleshly desires is an ongoing daily struggle for all of us. It is a battle that we must fight each and every day from sun up to sun down. It is a battle that cannot be won by ourselves alone. We must include the Holy Spirit in the fight against our flesh. We have to desire to win that battle with the help of God, not just in one part of ourselves, but in all that, we are as stated in Matthew 22.
As if our struggle against our own flesh to love God wasn’t enough, we have to struggle to love others. It sounds easy in principle to love everyone, but it is a different exercise entirely when living life. Everyone is a sinner. That is a fact born out by many different scripture references in the Bible. This is why it is a struggle to love others. We are surrounded by people that don’t live to the same Christ-like standard as we do. We also have people around us that claim to love Jesus the same as us. Both of these groups are hard to love at times. People are selfish, they do what pleases their own selves, and they don’t care about the ramifications of their selfishness on others. How do we love people when we are struggling to do so? When we are struggling to make it through the day in our personal lives, how do we love others when it is a struggle to get past the sin that they are visiting upon us?
Look to Jesus-
When we have a seat on the struggle bus, and it seems like anything, and everything will go wrong in our personal lives and in our relationships we need to look to Jesus. I want to close with one particular example from Jesus life that will help us decern how to love our life during the times of struggle. During the last 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he was falsely arrested, endured sham trials, beaten, made to carry how own cross up the hill he would die on, and killed in one of the most gruesome ways known in Bible times. Despite a 24 hour time period of pure struggle in his life, he did something on the cross that should change the way we think about struggle. He uttered one phrase, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus gave us the pattern for what we should do when we are struggling.
- He prayed- Jesus was hanging on a cross in agony. He was there because others had placed him there unfairly. Despite all of the wrongs in this situation perpetrated against Jesus, he chose to pray to his father in heaven.
- He forgave- People had hung him on that cross even though he had done nothing wrong. He was completely innocent and yet he still forgave those that did it and even asked God to forgive them. When we are struggling because of what others are doing are we willing to forgive them and ask God to forgive them?
- He realized their lostness- Jesus realized that the men who hung him on the cross didn’t believe in who he was. He wanted to forgive them for their unbelief despite the heinous crimes that they were perpetrated against him. He wanted them to see what it meant to believe in Him by forgiving them even in his agony.