Growing up in a country music-loving household, I recall the words of a 1970 Lynn Anderson country hit: “I beg your pardon—I never promised you a rose garden!” Those lyrics come to mind as I hear more than one Christian asking, “Why has God allowed all these terrible things to happen in 2020?” While I understand the temptation to wonder what God is up to in the midst of the upheaval and chaos we’ve seen this year so far, I must say that Biblically informed Christians know better than to think God’s promises include a “smooth and easy” earthly existence.
Jesus put it this way in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble.” The idea that we as Christians are guaranteed a problem-free life is mistaken. The created world is broken by the effects of sin, with all the fallout that comes along with that brokenness. The challenges are multiplied by the fact that we have an enemy who seeks to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8) and who has great influence on those who do not know Jesus— “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2, emphasis mine). Ephesians 6:10 speaks of the ongoing intense battle in which we are presently engaged. Battlefield conditions are seldom easy or comfortable, and real challenges are to be expected; after all, Jesus warned us that we would need to “take up our cross daily.”
The good news is the outcome of this battle is not in doubt, and in the meantime, our commander promises to be with us (Matthew 28:20) until the victory is achieved: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We are not promised a “rose garden” existence, but we are promised “…every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3), that no suffering is ever meaningless— “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), and that the victory will be worth the struggle— “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Fight on— the only way we can lose is to abandon the battlefield before God completes His work through us.