I have a friend who is a missionary in very difficult circumstances. In her latest email she talked about a book she’s been studying for Lent. It is about the narrow way Jesus has called His followers to take. How sometimes well-intentioned people try to talk us out of the difficult path laid out before us.
That got me thinking. I’ve been very blessed because even those concerned about my moving to the D.R. have been supportive. Sure, there are questions about safety – how secure will my home be, how about medical care, will I be all alone, etc., but I’ve not had anyone tell me they think I should not go.
I think about how I respond to others facing their own narrow ways. I am often quick to pray relief from pain, removal of bad circumstances. Are those prayers wrong? Maybe not wrong, but I think they are often misguided. I think about Jesus’ beautiful prayer in John 17. He prayed for His disciples, then – and now. He prayed for our protection, but not in the way we might pray. He did not pray that His Father would take us out of the world, but that He would protect us from the evil one.
We know that the evil one, Satan, is sneaky and hateful and doesn’t play fair. What if the seemingly safe and comfortable place is actually the most hazardous? What if the best way to be safeguarded from him is to stay in circumstances and places which from the outside seem perilous? What if God’s protection looks like just the opposite of our notion of it? After all, if we are following Jesus, it means things are going to be difficult. Crosses, losing lives, being hated…
You know, I think we need to go even further back to wrestle with understanding God’s “protection”. I know I tend to think of protection as a saving from all harm and pain and discomfort and things I don’t like. I don’t think that’s really what Jesus is saying. God protects us at the most fundamental, essential level. We are hid in Christ, and nothing that happens to us can separate us from Him. This doesn’t mean really awful things won’t happen. We live in a broken place, and Satan is trying to get at us.
We cause a lot of harm by teaching and preaching this false idea that God wants to remove us from anything that causes us pain or trouble. Am I being loving if I’m praying God removes someone from a difficult situation? What if that "narrow way" is very place which is the safest? This is not easy, and it’s not something I’m very comfortable with.
There I go again! I have to confess to an obsession with being comfortable. I don’t like grappling with things that make me stretch out past my tidy understanding of God. I don’t like the idea of facing dangers and persecutions. Shoot, I don’t even like the fact that it’s kind of cold out right now!
I don’t know how I got the notion that God’s top priority is my comfort level with things. Jesus didn’t do much (Any!) teaching on living a comfortable, easy, pain-free life. My "safest" place, the place where there is protection for what truly matters – my eternal soul – is on the narrow way. The way which is so difficult that if I do not have the constant power and presence of the Holy Spirit, I will never survive.
Thank you, Jesus, that You did not leave Your path to the cross. Father, keep me in Your will, on the path to which You have called me. Help me to remember You will be my constant Guide and Strength. Give me courage to pray for the narrow way; for myself, for all those who follow You. Yours is the only way to true safety. Teach me to find my only comfort, my only protection in Your perfect will.