I admit, I have felt discouraged lately in my pursuit of health. After being told by my doctor that after two or three months of a porridge only diet, my stomach would hopefully be healed enough to begin eat normally again, I am still unable to tolerate food.
While I am confident that this journey has not been wasted and, I know that it’s far from over, I am struggling with a heart of discontentment in the place that the Lord has me. In all honesty, I simply long to feel normal again.
Have you been where I am? Are you there now, struggling to accept where God has you and what He has allowed? I’m right there with you.
However, these are the words that I stumbled upon today as the stirring discontentment was affecting my perspective, attitude, and mood-
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him…Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:1, 20-24).
Paul was speaking to the Corinthians, addressing their discontentment in marital status, racial and cultural identity, and position as slaves desiring freedom. While some of you may be struggling with a desired change in marital status or cultural identity, most are not struggling with the with desire to be free from slavery. However, we can find ourselves feeling enslaved to undesired circumstances, failing bodies, the battle of sin, and situations we never expected to be in. We can feel enslaved to the burdens of life.
As I read these verses several times, they began to sink in, revealing my heart of discontentment. What it exposed in me was an attitude that said, “I’ve sacrificed, I’ve put in the work, I’ve committed to this hard journey, I’ve followed what seemed to be Your leading, but now, I want to be free from this. I’ve had enough, I expected to be healed by now and, I just want to be normal again.”
Can you relate? Have you endured and prayed through a trial but are beginning to feel weary? Are you sensing a spirit of discontentment and frustration growing within you? You are not alone.
In these verses, Paul reminds us of the truths we need to recognize when we find ourselves in these moments. Here are a few helpful ways that we can find encouragement in through Paul’s words:
We are not called to be “normal”. We are called to live the life that God has called us to, a life set apart for the Gospel.
The truth is, it is more normal to live a life of sin than of holiness. It is more normal to live a life serving self than serving others. It is more normal to seek comfort than sacrifice. It is more normal to desire our best life now than our best life in eternity. Do we really want to be normal?
Jesus Christ is anything but normal. Therefore, Christ’s work in a believer’s life is not to supply them with everything they would normally desire, but instead shape their desires to become resolute and single minded in the gospel.
Therefore, while we can pray for health, a new job, a spouse, a healthy child, or a change in circumstance, we must realize that those things are not what we are called to live for. Could it be that God may choose to withhold what we desire in order to redirect us from seeking what’s “normal” and, instead towards seeking what’s eternal? For example, while I loathe being sick on many levels, I am thankful for it’s sanctifying work in my life. Physical pain and discomfort have taught me what it means to rely on Christ on a moment-by-moment basis, as well as, to turn my focus from seeking my best life now towards a focus on living with an eternal perspective.
As believers, Jesus Christ takes our normal and ordinary lives, changes our hearts, minds, and eternal destination and, transforms us (often through these unwanted circumstances) into His likeness. When we grow to understand what we deserve apart from Christ and that the workings of our lives are not just by chance but, rather graciously ordained and sustained with a purpose, we can choose to walk by faith in His promises. In the words of J.R. Miller²,
The question of small or great has no place here. To have been thought about at all, and then fashioned by God’s hands to fill any place, is glory enough for the grandest and most aspiring life. And the highest place to which anyone can attain in life is that for which he was designed and made.
We are to seek answers when they are available, but must trust and obey Christ even if they don’t come.
Paul was reminding the Corinthians that they should certainly seek freedom from slavery if the opportunity availed itself, but, if it didn’t, they were to be content in whatever situation they found themselves.
In other words, although they desired freedom, it was not a God-given right but, rather, a preferable option.¹ We too, can desire relief and seek it in the ways God may provide, but we also need to humbly accept the things from God that may not be what we were seeking. As Jerry Bridges said³,
Our lives demand a delicate balance between godly efforts to improve our situation and godly acceptance of those situations we cannot honorably change.
I know that I can be quick to forget my position before God apart from Christ, which tempts me to complain when pain, disappointment, or inconveniences strike. Therefore, although I am desiring to eat real food again and healing hasn’t come as quickly as I’d like, I can trust that Christ has not just forgotten or turned a blind eye. He is actively working, shaping, loving, guiding, and equipping me. The same is true for you.
If He has chosen to delay, or even if He chooses to never remove this thorn, will we still trust Him? While our flesh cringes at that thought, the Spirit within us speaks louder. He is worthy of our trust Him and He is worth following, no matter the cost. Because apart from Jesus, we are hopeless, powerless, lost, and suffering without a purpose. Yes, even in the storms, we can know that He is there and He is sovereign.
We were bought with a price. If God loves us enough to purchase us with the blood of His own son, than nothing He allows can be outside of that love.
This is one that I need to dwell on. God killed his own Son so that we could be saved from a life of slavery to sin and a deserved eternity in hell. If He could save me from hell, He certainly can save me from a life of chronic pain and illness. And He can save you, in whatever place you find yourself. However, if He chooses not to, at least for the moment, then our loving Father has something greater for us. It helps to remember that God did not enjoy watching His son suffer, but in His amazing love for us, even as undeserving and ungrateful sinners, He still chose for His Son to be beaten, mocked, and killed, in order to purchase our freedom through His blood. When that truth sinks deep, discontentment and even hatred for our current situations should begin to pale in comparison to the life of bondage and eternal hell that would be ours apart from Christ’s blood. So we can be confident that God will not let us suffer one moment longer than His proven love allows.
Brothers and Sisters, Christ has brought you and I to the places we are, at this time, for a reason. He has ordained, allowed, and chosen it for His sovereign purposes. We may not understand why and we may not know for how long, but He is faithfully working. We can choose to fight it, or we can grab hold of the truths that we have in the gospel, surrender our demands for freedom from our earthly troubles, and trust that we are part of a far greater plan than we could ever imagine. Our troubles, though numerous on this earth, are momentary. They will all be worth it if we endure till the end.
For me, I long to be able to eat normal food again with my family and friends and, I do desire to participate in life without daily pain. However, this life is short and never a guarantee. We have each been given breath for a purpose and a time. So friends in Christ, while I do not intend to make light of what you may be experiencing, no circumstance you may be enduring is as terrible as it would be apart from Christ, who has given us a hope beyond this life. Find encouragement and strength to fight another day in the truth that you are free and running towards a glorious and eternal prize. Today, let’s not strive for normal, but rather, something greater. May we submit ourselves to the loving will of our Father, allowing Him to transform us to reflect our Savior, Who has called us out of normal and into His glorious light.
¹ John Macarthur ESV Bible Commentary, ² Jerry Bridges-31 Days Toward Trusting God, ³ Jerry Bridges-31 Days Toward Trusting God