In all honesty I’m friends with a lot more people on social media than I could ever REALLY keep up with. That being said, I see a lot of comments and quotations flit by the screen as I scroll merrily along. The other day I saw this:
Did you know that the only person keeping you from your best life is you?
I’ll be honest, it sounded a lot like a Joel Osteen quotation (the whole “best life” wording), but the person didn’t attribute it. I also don’t know the entire context of the quotation—I just got the snippet she decided to share with the world. Those caveats aside, let’s progress with the quotation at hand.
My initial reaction was to imagine Adolf Hitler standing before a boxcar of Jews about to ship out to a death camp telling his prisoners, “Zee only person keeping you from your best life eez you!”—yes, you must always read Hitler quotes with a Schultz (from Hogan’s Heroes) accent.
Can you picture it? Ludicrous, right?
Can anyone deny that sometimes garbage happens to us because of other people? Recently having gone through (and still going through) a tough time I had someone say to me, “It blows my mind that you refuse to take any responsibility about…!”
And I still won’t take it.
Don’t misunderstand me—I believe we ought to own up to our choices and consequences. Still, sometimes things happen TO us that go beyond our own behavior. Sometimes bad stuff comes our way without being a consequence of our actions. This is one of the major themes in the story of Job.
When all the horrible things happened to Job (lost his livelihood, his children died, he became very ill…) his friends gathered around him to support him. Eventually they came to the point of telling Job, “Something you did brought this calamity upon you. What was it?”
Job’s answer time and again was: I HAVE DONE NOTHING TO BRING THIS UPON MYSELF!!!
Regardless of what cheery Osteen-ism you want to read and believe, sometimes life sucks no matter what you try to do. You can’t always control things to get a happy and delightful outcome. You don’t always get to have a “best life now.” Just ask the countless Christian martyrs who have died for their beliefs.
Ask the countless Christians in developing nations who live in abject poverty.
Ask the Christians in our own neighborhoods who struggle and suffer with gut-wrenching problems.
It’s not because they don’t believe. It’s not because they haven’t tried.
Sometimes life just sucks.
Jesus never promises it won’t suck. Sometimes our “best life now” means hanging on by a thread and praying for God to deliver us.
Maybe he will.
Maybe he won’t.
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said,
We know that our God CAN deliver us, but even if he doesn’t we will not worship another god.
Sometimes you’ll go through stuff you didn’t cause or deserve. I feel your pain. Shoot me a message sometime and we’ll commiserate. Sometimes it’s all we can do just to get by. I pray I have the fortitude of men like Rach, Shach, and Bennie—men like Job—who can hold fast to their faith and say:
Even in this dark hour I KNOW that my God has not abandoned me.
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.