“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  2 Corinthians 4:8–9 (NIV)

When we confess our belief in Jesus as the Holy One of God, we often assume our lives will become easier. It doesn’t help that many people with good intentions teach this as biblical truth.

Certainly Jesus taught that his yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30), and the apostle Paul spoke about the Sabbath rest of God (Hebrews 4:9), but both these examples teach the need to develop a deep trust in God and not that following Jesus is easy. We’re to step into the will of God and stay there, trusting he has our best interests at heart (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).

With God’s Spirit working in us and through us, we can get through what we’re going through. The apostle Paul says this is the very time we can learn to trust Jesus:

Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Philippians 4:13 MSG).

If we want to make a significant contribution to the Kingdom of God, we cannot sidestep the difficult seasons of life. Like Paul, we can watch God keep us from being crushed when we’re under pressure, give us hope when things don’t make any sense, reveal his presence when we are rejected, and pick us back up when we’re knocked senseless to the ground (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).

Getting through what you’re going through requires a shift. Instead of asking, “Why me?” ask, “What do I do with this, God?”

– Why wouldn’t God take away all our problems when we commit our lives to Jesus?
– What do you think God would do if you prayed, “Lord, help my unbelief?”
– Where are you saying “Why me?” in your life? What do you think will happen if you ask instead, “What do I do with this, God?”

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6

As a kid, I loved to watch actors do impersonations of other performers or politicians. More recently, pop singer Ariana Grande has perfected how to sound like other female artists. Sometimes it feels as though the imitator is better than the real person because they magnify the voice, unique characteristics, or mannerisms to embellish their performance.

When I became a father, I noticed early on how much my first-born son took on many of my mannerisms and way of speaking, right down to how he walked. As he got older, I found myself encouraging him in many areas of my own interest. I figured that he would enjoy many of the same things since he was so much like me.

In the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul encourages the first century believers to imitate the Lord just as he and the other apostles do in order to experience the richness of the gospel. That is a risky suggestion.

So often I fall short of where I hope to be on my journey of faith. On the other hand, when people see me with all my faults, slowly imitating Christ more and more, they recognize that God has not finished his work in me through the Holy Spirit. Even so, I can still be an inspiration to them. God is glorified.

How about you? Do you inspire others in your walk with Jesus? Do they see your joy in the midst of difficulties? Do you try more and more to imitate Christ?

God wants to use you – will you let him?

Dear Lord, help me to become more and more like you as I listen to the Holy Spirit and study your Word. Work in me and through me, I pray so I can help others draw near to you. Amen.