I’ve never done this. Will you help me out? I’m completing a book project right now about the normal, authentic, daily Christian life. It’s a book about all the misconceptions and misunderstandings that keep us from enjoying our relationship with Jesus. It’s basically the truths that have kept me walking forward with Christ when so often I feel like a failure.
The reason I’m writing it is that I have many new Christians in my world, and I want to hand them something to help them understand that Christianity is a relationship not a religion.
I’d like to get your feedback, and so I’m posting the introduction below. It’s 3,000 words, so not a normal post. If you have the time, would you read and either leave a comment or shoot me an email with feedback? Here’s my basic question—is this a book that you would read? Do you feel it would be helpful to growing believers?
Feel free to be honest. And thanks for taking a moment to consider and help me out! I really appreciate it! (BTW—it’s not edited or proofed… so it’s raw…)
“…we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23)
The afternoon was wearing on. It was hot. The summer sun was at its peak. The day had already been long—and emotional. She was getting tired, and there was still a long day ahead. Pose after pose, click after click, smile after smile, the photographer never seemed satisfied. Her feet hurt. Her dress was uncomfortable. Her cheeks ached from “having to smile.” Her energy waned.
Dizzy. Light-headed. Short of breath. Disoriented. Regroup. Catch your breath. Pause. Press on.
Somebody forgot to tell her what hard work it was to “get married!”
She was my future daughter in law on her wedding day. My wife and I stood with her parents in the shade, watching the wedding photos come together. After eighteen years of friendship, we were relishing the joy of these long anticipated moments.
Truly, it was wonderful. It was overwhelmingly perfect, in every way. It was joyous beyond description. It was a picture of purity and blessing. It was a delightful portrait of God’s redemptive love—the groom and his bride. It was everything we hoped and dreamed it would be.
But being the bride had it’s difficult side. It was exhilaratingly exhausting. Beautifully depleting. Wonderfully wearying. There was a lot of work in waiting. Standing still. Enduring the heat. Putting up with the portraits. Holding the pose. Again. And again.
She needed some rest. A soft chair. Cold water. Fresh fruit. She needed to lean on someone. She needed a break. Being a bride was harder than she imagined it would be. But being married would be a dream come true—the fulfillment of a lifetime hope!
True love waiting in temporary toil. Bliss wrapped in burden. Hope held up in hardship. Paradise arrested by pause.
In some sense, I see myself and my Saviour in this picture. I see my Christian life—and yours. Jesus, the perfect Redeemer—the Bride Groom who has prepared a place for me. Me, the weakening bride, wishing He would quickly remove me from this present struggle called “life” and fulfill his ultimate promise of redemption and perfection—eternal hope, Heaven, and freedom from the restraints and discomforts of a sin-sick world and a sin-scarred life.
The mothers rush to her aid. “Sit down for a moment.” “Have some water.” “Eat some food.” A few moments of rest. Then, more photos. More standing. More waiting. More enduring. And more weariness.
I could almost see on her face a distant, wistful, whimsical hope—a wish that, if possible, he would sprout wings and whisk her away—far from the cameras, far from the faces of friends and family, far from the emotional chaos of the wedding day. She just wanted to be with the one she loved and finally free to “live happily ever after.”
Her eyes would wander off with her thoughts. Her heart and mind was already there—far from it all and in love with him. Until another shutter would click, another bulb would flash, another “smile” commanded, jolting her back to the present reality.
The wedding was still a few hours away. And the wait would seem almost unbearable.
Are You a Joyful Christian?
Are you a Christian?
I don’t mean “are you religious?” I don’t mean “do you use the word Christian in some vague, gratuitous, religious way?” I mean, when it comes to your eternal destiny—your salvation from the penalty of sin and your hope of eternal life in Heaven—are you trusting in Jesus Christ alone to save you? Do you have a personal relationship with Him?
Or, are you trusting yourself? Your good works? Your church? Your past religious behavior or observances? Are you trusting anything other than the saving work of Jesus Christ to remove your guilt of sin and give you His righteousness in exchange?
If you are not sure about these questions—then read on, because this book will explore these thoughts more deeply, and hopefully introduce you to truth that will radically transform your thinking.
Second question. If you are a Christian—are you enjoying your Christian life?
If you have recently become a Christian, you would most likely answer “Yes!” But all too often, for those who have known Jesus for any length of time, the truthful answer to this question would be, “Not really….”
Somewhere between meeting Jesus and today, you’ve discovered that “being a bride” can be difficult. The joy can easily be replaced with anxiety. The grace can be overshadowed by perceived expectations. The victory in Jesus can be overcome by failure in self.
The journey we call “the Christian life” can subtly and swiftly move from being “amazed by unconditional grace” to being “unable to measure up!” It can move from being a real relationship to being a rigid religion—a system of behavior modification rather than an experience in knowing, loving, and being loved by a personal Saviour.
If you are anything like many Christians, you are disillusioned. The promise of being Christian has somehow broken down, let you down, or left you with less than you expected. The hope you found in Christ has been tarnished by the hurt of this present life. The “new you” that was born the moment you met Jesus hasn’t fully emerged, and the old you seems all too much alive and in control.
Maybe you’re tired of the struggle. Tired of trying. You really don’t think you’re “cut out for this” like other people appear to be. (And if you don’t feel this way—hold on, at some point you will.)
Perhaps this book finds you nearly exhausted. The hope you found in Christ has faded into weariness, failure, disillusionment, and guilt. Maybe you’re thinking of giving up. You’ve figured out you don’t know what you’re doing. You feel like you can’t get it right, like you can’t measure up to this “bride gig.” Your faith has collided with frustration and failure, and you’re pretty sure you’re just a big disappointment to God—one of His “let downs” in the grand redemption of mankind.
You regroup. You try harder. You renew your decision to redouble your efforts. Others around you seem to be doing fine in this thing called “the Christian life”—what’s your problem? You can’t seem to get it right. You can’t seem to get your heart in sync with your behavior, and all of it in sync with God’s apparently “very high expectations.” You beat yourself up—certain that you deserve it. You shame and guilt yourself to sleep. You determine to try harder tomorrow. You’re sure God is unhappy with you.
Nothing is ever enough. How could it be? You belong to an eternally perfect Redeemer! What could you—an imperfect, fallible being—possibly offer the God who has everything already? What could you possibly present to the Groom who already owns it all? No matter how good, how holy, how perfectly you behave; no matter how much you expend, serve, give, or sacrifice; no matter how hard you work or exhaust yourself—no matter how exceptional you attempt to be “for God,” it always feels like a failed attempt to “jump to the moon.”
After all, Jesus died for you—you certainly owe Him some pretty massive effort! (Or so our natural assumption goes.) Let’s face it, salvation is a pretty big debt to pay down. You know He is worthy of your best. Yet, no matter how hard you try, you feel like a perpetual failure. The debt looms. The law screams your sinfulness. Your accuser reminds you of your faults.
The burden of living the Christian life berates and bullies you to “be better, try harder.” You’re just sure that God is looming over the edge of Heaven, arms folded, frowning upon you like an angry head-master at an orphanage.
Pose. Perform. Please Him! (Can we say pressure?!)
This bride thing is harder than you ever imagined. This “Christianity thing” is starting to seem impossible. Life was easier before you “got saved.” Life was lighter when you didn’t realize there were so many expectations of a “bride.”
Hold these thoughts. They are not accurate. They are a lie, and there is a different way. Keep reading. There’s more to the Christian life. It’s not an experiment in behavior modification. It’s not an attempt to appease God, repay Him for His love, or impress Him with our exhaustive efforts. It’s not what you think. There’s more! It’s way better than you think!
Welcome to Normal
If you experience these emotions—you’re normal. It’s woven into our human psyche to try to “measure up.” But the gospel is the “good news” that you can’t measure up and you don’t have to. You don’t need to “measure up.” You need to cry “mercy.” Biblical Christianity is an adventure in lavish grace—undeserved favor, unmerited love, unearned goodness.
Through these pages it is my desire to strengthen you in grace—to expose the lies, and examine the truth. It will truly make you free—free from disillusionment and free to enjoy walking with Jesus and knowing Him. Free to be His bride! Free to be the child He already loves very much!
You long for what was promised. A Saviour. Grace. Goodness. Abundant life. Hope. Heaven. Peace. Joy.
You dream of rescue. You sigh for relief.
Like my daughter-in-law on her wedding day—your eyes drift, your heart yearns, your mind wanders to a promise. It’s foggy, it’s mysterious, it’s vaguely close but strangely distant. You’ve almost lost hope.
The promises of redemption—the moment when your Groom, your Saviour, will come and rescue you into a perfect eternity—free from struggle and sin—and self. That’s what you long for. But for now you find yourself held hostage. Suspended between a serene someday and a painful present.
You’re not where you were, but you’re not where you want to be—where you ought to be, where you were “saved to be.”
It’s frustrating. It’s a struggle. It’s exhausting, disappointing, and depleting. It’s hard. Harder than you imagined. Harder than anyone told you.
You need rest. You need strength. You need hope. You wonder where you went wrong. You wonder why your Christian life seems so impossible and everyone else’s seems so “together.” You wonder why God tolerates you, and you know you’re wearing His patience thin. You’re pretty sure that He’s going to give up on you at any moment.
So, are you enjoying your Christian life? If you identify with these experiences—probably not.
Perhaps you’re wondering how I know? How can I so accurately profile your Christian experience?
Because it’s mine. Yes, friend—I’m a struggling Christian. My struggle is in it’s thirty-seventh year of groaning. Thirty-seven years of wedding photos—waiting for wedding day! And yes, everything I described in the previous paragraphs are my very own experiences and mis-adventures in misunderstanding my Christian life. These descriptors are my own raw feelings played out on the bleeding edge of my own internal, spiritual battles.
I’ve quit more than I can admit. I gave up more times than I can remember. You won’t find a bigger loser, a greater “underserver”, a more proficient “Christian failure” than me. Really.
And the longer I’m saved—the more I walk with Jesus—the more aware I become of what a “problem child” I really am. No matter how hard I’ve tried for over 35 years, I can’t get this “Christian-life thing” straight! (At this point, picture me implanting my fingers in the shape of a “capital L” smack in the middle of my forehead!) Loser! That’s me. (And yes, that’s you too. Which is why we need a Saviour to begin with.)
While being saved is the most awesome thing that ever happened to me, being a Christian is the most impossible thing I’ve ever attempted.
Paradox of paradoxes—joyfully troublesome, blissfully burdensome, blessedly impossible, wonderfully hard, horribly delightful.
The Christian life is a world of paradox—a relationship with your Creator that will lead you into a fiery furnace to meet a faithful friend, into a raging storm to discover a Sovereign Saviour, into a whale’s belly to find amazing grace, onto a bloody cross to meet a suffering God, and into a deathly tomb to discover new life. It’s a relationship in which dying is living, losing is finding, surrendering is winning, and failure is not final—ever!
It’s a journey where defeat is drowned in mercy, effort is overwhelmed by grace, and imperfection is shrouded in unconditional love. It’s a life where only destitution is granted deliverance, only ruin is redeemed, and only death can be resurrected.
It’s the only life in which victory only follows failure, life only follows death, and succeeding only follows giving up.
If you struggle as a Christian, welcome to normal Christianity. If you are having a hard time “living the Christian life,” congratulations on being exactly like everyone else! (Even those who pretend to have it all together.) If you are discouraged, frustrated, ready to quit, wishing you could pull your act together, hoping there’s some Utopian moment of victory out there somewhere, someday—you’re completely normal, and you’re not all that far from truth.
That moment is out there. It’s just not now. It’s not here. Not yet.
For now, we groan. We wrestle. We wait. We endure. We stand. We forbear. We fight. We war. These are the words Jesus used to describe our painful present. We earnestly desire that blissful joy for which we longed the moment we trusted Christ. We crave the victory promised over sin.
We yearn for a sin-free world, a struggle-free heart, a strain-free life. We long for God’s rescue to be complete—redemption to run its full course of completion. Being suspended between then and now is just plain hard.
Yes, we’re stuck in a struggle. Welcome to normal. The life of a bride before the wedding involves some waiting, some enduring, some weariness, even some frustration. But the dream of the wedding day—the promise of the Bride Groom, the hope of Heaven, overshadows all the grief.
Then outweighs now. Hope holds us together when all else pulls us apart.
Would you like to enjoy the journey?
Would you like to understand and enjoy your Christian life?
You can. You don’t have to be held hostage by misunderstood principles, misapplied half-truths, misappropriated Scripture, and overlooked precepts. With a biblical perspective, realistic expectations, and eternal hope, you can come to a point of rest, peace, and true joy. You can rediscover and renew the joy of your salvation. You can return to the delight of being a “newborn” in God’s family. You can recapture the wonder of belonging to your Bride Groom—Jesus—and anticipating your imminent wedding day.
You were saved, not to languish in shame and guilt—but to savor the joy of knowing Jesus and walking with Him. You are the child of a loving Father, the delight of a sovereign Deity, the bride of a gracious Bride Groom, and the creation of an intimate Creator who loves you enough to die.
It’s time you recover the lost joy of simply being a Christian—being in Jesus, belonging to Jesus, following Jesus, knowing Jesus, walking with Jesus, and anticipating all that Jesus holds in store for you in that imminent forever!
It’s time to unchain yourself from false expectations, unbiblical imaginations, self-imposed regulations, and those perpetual self-incriminations that haunt your daily walk. It’s time to recapture the wonderful delight of simply being saved.
These pages will not teach you “how to live the Christian life.” Only Jesus can do that. Hopefully these pages will help you fall in love with a Saviour—one who not only saves you from sin, but from yourself as well. It is my hope that by the end of this book, you will so much more love and understand Him, that you will grab ahold of His hand and never stop walking with Him until you see Him face to face.
No matter how successful (or not) you become at “living the Christian life”—whether you hobble, limp, or leap across your finish line—I pray you will love Him and enjoy Him all the way!
You’re Weary. But He’s in Love!
So, you’re saved. You are in Jesus—His bride. But the time is long. The day is hot. The wedding seems a long way off, and you’re not sure you have the strength. You feel like a failure. You feel unfit, undeserving, and unable. You feel completely incapable.
Why would He even want you?
You’re disillusioned. Discouraged. Defeated. Despairing. You’ve lost the wonder because you feel like a failure.
Truth is—He’s in love with you. You’ve disappointed yourself, but not Him. You are weak in yourself, but He’s not weak. You don’t see what He sees in you. You feel faint. You wonder why He would care for you. You fear you will not measure up to please Him.
But He’s not measuring you up. He’s saving you from having to measure up. He fulfilled the law so you wouldn’t have to. He gave you His righteousness in exchange for your sinfulness. He isn’t comparing you with anyone or anything else. You cannot possibly be more perfect in His eyes—no matter what you do. You are His delight. You are His redeemed. You are complete in Him. Period.
It’s called grace.
Dizzy. Light-headed. Short of breath. Disoriented. The journey can be depleting. The wait is sheer agony. The struggle is often blinding.
It’s time to regroup. Catch your breath. Lean a minute. Reorient your heart to His Word. Recalibrate your identity in Him.
Someone forgot to tell you some things about being “Christian.” This is different than you expected it to be. Harder somehow, but oh, so incredibly wonderful!
Friend, don’t give up. Don’t walk away. The wedding is close and your Groom is near. I know the wait seems too much to bear, but redemption is real.
And yes, you can enjoy simply being a Christian!
Come with me on this unforgettable walk into His arms…
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Corinthians 4:17)