Why is the Christian walk so hard when Scripture says it's supposed to be easy?
Since I often I get provocative and interesting questions like this one, I thought it might be appropriate to "take a break" in our series on renewing our minds and address the issues this question raises.
The actual e-mail I received reads like this (it's from "None Lost"): "Sometime back I bought the Be Ye Transformed tapes, hoping to hear some good news on how to get transformed into the image of Christ. But when I heard you say, 'I wish it were easier' and 'It's a hard walk,' I got discouraged.
"...Now if I were one who is blessed with self-discipline, I could probably handle the 'moment by moment choices' (the M & M's), but I am cursed with much worse than average self-discipline. Jesus said that 'My yoke is easy and My burden is light.' (Matthew 11:30) It is also written that 'His commandments are not grievous' (1 John 5:3) and 'the way of transgressors (non-Christians) is hard.' (Proverbs 13:15)
"How do you reconcile these Scriptures with your statements that 'it's a hard walk' and that you wish 'it were easier?'
" Thank you, "None Lost," for your great question!
My Yoke is Easy and My Burden is Light
In regards to the first Scripture that "None Lost" mentions (Matthew 11:30), the word yoke in this case refers to our original coupling or connection with the Lord. It's our choice, by faith, to believe and accept Christ into our hearts as our Savior.
Truly, as this Scripture states, this yoke is easy. How many of us know people who have "walked up the sawdust aisle," accepted Christ as their Savior, and then never do another thing about it. So, yes, our initial choice to invite Christ into our lives is definitely easy, but God doesn't want us to stop there!
A part of our "yoke" with Jesus Christ is that we are now supposed to carry HIS burden within us - His Word (Jeremiah 23:36), His Will and His Commandments to love Him and to love others. The reason the Bible says that this burden is light, is because Jesus, if we allow Him to, carries out, performs and does His Will and His Commandments through us.
In other words, if we are cleansed vessels, Jesus will produce the Love, the Wisdom and the Power that we need through us.
He does it all! He not only gives us the desire to choose His Will rather than our own, but He also performs that Will through us! This is what makes carrying Jesus' burden light.
The Way of Transgressors is Hard
Now, the reason Proverbs 13:15 says that "the way of transgressors is hard" is because God is not in them. He is not in them to carry out, perform or do His Will and His Commandments through them.
These people must struggle on their own power, their own strength and their own ability to love God and others. And ultimately, they find they can't do it - it's completely impossible and it is hard, just as Proverbs says.
However, if we truly are believers in Christ, then no matter what occurs in our lives or how we feel, the Bible tells us that we have God's authority and power to choose to lay down our lives so that He can produce His Life through us.
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, [so] that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body...."
2 Corinthians 4:8-10
"A Hard Walk"
What makes this such a "hard walk" is not God's fault, but our own. What's difficult (and I, personally, do wish much easier) is the constant choosing every one of us have to do, moment by moment, to set ourselves aside so that God can carry out His Word and His Will through us.
This constant choosing is our own responsibility and without it, God's Spirit in us will be quenched and His Commandments will not be accomplished.
If every one of us would automatically choose, moment by moment, without any struggle or questioning, to relinquish ourselves by confessing, repenting and giving over to God anything "that is not of faith" (our doubts, our unforgiveness, our justified hurts, our fears, our self-pity, our worry, our grumbling, our criticalness, our resentfulness, etc.), then yes, we would find His burden (His Commands, His Will) light, just as He says.
The problem is, just like the gentleman stated in his e-mail to me, many of us are "cursed with much worse than average self-discipline" and find those moment-by-moment choices difficult to make. This is the reason that this Christian walk is so hard.
Self-discipline is simply a series of choices. And, these choices are our own responsibility to make. God will do it through us, but first we must choose to give Him "cleansed" vessels to use.
Watchman Nee wrote a wonderful book called The Normal Christian Life. In it he states, "We cannot expect the Lord to live out His Life in us, if we are not willing to give Him our lives in which to live." In other words, God will freely perform His Will, His Commands and His Word through us. But first, "we" must make the appropriate faith choices (non-feeling choices) to unconditionally yield our lives to Him.
A Precious Example
Here's a wonderful example that graphically illustrates the power of our faith choices.
A dear friend of mine had to travel on business from Durango, Colorado to the next town, which was at least 40 miles away. This part of Colorado is spectacularly beautiful, but quite desolate as far as population goes. There just isn't anything between these two cities.
My friend had received The Way of Agape audio tapes a few months previously and had been listening periodically to them. She thought this long drive would be a perfect opportunity to finish the series, so she took along tapes #7 and #8 with her.
She became so engrossed in what she was hearing on tape #7 (all about our constant, moment-by-moment "faith" choices) that she didn't realize she was nearly out of gas. And she was so preoccupied with what God was bearing witness to her, that she drove right past the last gas station in Durango. There would not be another station for 40 miles.
Sure enough, about 15 or 20 miles outside of Durango, she ran out of gas. The car literally stopped running. She pulled over to the side and became totally distraught as she realized her precarious predicament.
Since this was a business appointment and she was all dressed up (heels and all), there was no way she could walk anywhere. And, even if she could have, there was no place to go for help. The few cars that did pass her were mostly men, with beards and long hair and shot guns in their rear windows, which terrified her.
As she sat there contemplating her situation, God impressed upon her heart what she had been listening to on those tapes-about making faith choices (non-feeling choices) to give any and all situations over to God, no matter how silly or difficult the circumstances might be.
It sunk in that in this scary situation, she did have a choice. She could become paralyzed with fear, which she was beginning to experience; or, she could choose by faith to unconditionally relinquish herself to God and then trust Him to perform His perfect Will through her (just like she was hearing on the tapes).
She decided to try the latter. Without "feeling" anything, she chose by faith to give God her fear and apprehension and to trust Him to protect her and make a way for her.
After her prayer, she decided to try the ignition one more time. She gently turned it on and the motor sputtered and then began. She put the car into gear, drove over on the far right side of the road and began to creep down the highway. The farther she went, the more elated she became. She had made the appropriate faith choices, God had heard her prayers and He was performing a miracle right before her eyes.
My precious friend drove that "empty" car all the way (about 20 miles) to the next city. When she would come to a hill, she simply made more faith choices to commit herself to God, softly stepped on the gas pedal and always seemed to have just enough "umph" to make it over the hill.
When she finally did arrive at the next city, she stopped at the first gas station feeling absolutely overjoyed. The gas station attendant asked her if she was all right, because she looked so radiant. She was able to witness to him and tell him the whole story. The seeds were planted in his life and now it's up to God, and that man's choice, as to what he will do with those seeds.
My dear friend made it to her appointment a little late, but nevertheless she arrived safely, having learned an incredible lesson about God's faithfulness. She called me and excitedly related her whole story, and thought it a perfect example of the power of our constant choices.
How many of us forget that God is always there, not only to encourage us to make the right choices, but also to then perform His Will and His Life through us.
The next time we are out on a desolate highway and we run out of gas we should try to remember this precious example.
So, dear writer, you are definitely right: Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light, but as you yourself stated in your e-mail, many of us have problems making the appropriate choices to allow God to perform His Will and His Life through us. And, this is why "we" are the ones, not God, who make this Christian walk a difficult walk.
"Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:14
Jesus Is our Example
The secret of the Christian walk is in surrendering. Surrendering simply means making many "non-feeling choices" every day to relinquish ourselves - all our thoughts, emotions and desires - to God.
These are choices just like Jesus made as He faced the Cross. It's constantly saying, "Not my will, but Thine."
No matter what occurs in our lives, no matter how horrible or how devastating the circumstances, God has given us His authority and His power to choose to lay down our lives so that He can produce His Life through us.
Jesus is our example, and we must always keep our eyes upon Him. "For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps"; ..."Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously."
1 Peter 2:21, 23
"The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain and be raised the third day. And He [went on] to say to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me . For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it."
These are the kinds of faith choices that God desires from every one of us, moment by moment, every single day. These non-feeling choices are what will make our yoke with Jesus easy, and His burden that we carry, light.
* * *
Parts of this article were excerpted from Chuck and Nan's new and expanded book, Be Ye Transformed (now in its second printing).