A Life of Ease or a Life of Growth?

Do you often eat breakfast cereal? Here’s a take on cereal you might not have seen. According to an article in the New York Times, researchers noticed a decline in sales of breakfast cereals. Here’s the reason. Breakfast cereal—with the whole bother of bowl and spoon—involved far too much work. Almost 40 percent of the millennials surveyed by Mintel for its 2015 report said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it.

This breakfast cereal issue reveals a telling situation. People believe they should live an unbothered life, a life of ease. That our lives should be freed from inconvenience and should get easier.

The desire for a life of ease is nothing new. As Jen Michel has noted, Between 1890 and 1920, the lives of American women (and men) changed dramatically with the introduction of electricity and running water. The promise of the new appliances they added to their homes, however, was not time-efficiency, as we might think. Instead, these appliances were called “labor-saving” devices, and they promised to spare the body of “bother.”

Fast forward to our day. By clicking on a cell phone app, we can change the temperature settings on our air conditioner or heater. By speaking the word Alexa, we can order a book from Amazon, listen to music, and even order toilet paper.

But is all of our technology, and the desire for a life of ease, really a good thing?

Do You Really Want a Life of Ease?
The Bible reveals that every commandment and standard of God can be summed in 5 words: love God and love others (see Matthew 22:36-40). Do we understand, though, that we never fulfill this expectation through a life of ease, but rather, through a life of commitment and sacrifice. People have real-life problems and needs. We can’t help these people if we aren’t willing to make some adjustments in our lives and experience some inconvenience.

God demonstrated great willingness to experience a life of burdens, demands, and sacrifice. His unique Son, Jesus, came to earth as a human being. Jesus endured pressure, temptation, sacrifice, criticism, and ultimately a horrible death on a Roman cross where He bore our sins upon Himself. God understands the demands of commitment.

God often calls us to a life of bother—to be bothered by the pain and needs of others, to be bothered by the demands of parenting and marriage, to be bothered by the demands of work. Love requires us to embrace these burdens, not to reject them.

If we live unto ourselves, thinking of ourselves and our comforts only, we miss the joy of having God use us to be a blessing to others. We miss out on the abundant life Jesus promised (see John 10:10).

A Life of Growth
God wants us to grow—personally and spiritually. He wants to stretch our faith and our ability to trust Him. He wants to develop our character. But He can’t do that apart from inconvenience, bother, disruption to our lives, and even pain.

Nearly two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his friend Mrs. Cosway, and in it he said, “The art of life is the avoiding of pain.” I believe strongly that Jefferson was wrong. He did not know that God uses pain and inconvenience to develop His people into better people.

Our personal problems and difficulties make us more sensitive to others. Who can better understand and sympathize with a couple or person who has lost a child than someone who has dealt with the same tragedy? Who can best relate to someone going through the pain of divorce than someone who has experienced that pain herself?

Ministry to others often is birthed in moments of inconvenience. I learned early in pastoral ministry that we seldom minister to others without having to make some personal sacrifices—time, money, energy, and more.

When we are willing to embrace a life that includes bother, pain, inconvenience, and distractions something fantastic happens. God uses those things to grow us and to make us better, and more loving, people. And that’s hopeful!

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