Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live comfortable happy lives? No challenges. No difficulties. No pain. No rejection.
Without consciously thinking in those terms, I think I wanted such an untried and untested existence. The challenges, difficulties, pain and rejection that I have experienced have convinced me that those things, and how we handle them, make us far more interesting versions of ourselves.
No challenges in life would produce little growth. A life without difficulties would eventually deflate one’s confidence. No pain would bring forth no endurance or compassion. To live without rejection would result in shrinking humility.
A life of too much comfort would be a life of little consequence.
Life in my younger years was full of opportunities, otherwise known as challenges, and I can remember thinking that I wasn’t ready for all of them. But ready or not, there they were. I handled some better than others, but after overcoming my insecurities, working hard, and enduring difficulties, my confidence and skill grew.
My children are now all adults, and they face typical troubles of young adult life. Part of me would like to smooth their journeys, fix their problems, and put permanent smiles on their faces, but I can’t. Even if that were possible, I’m learning that it’s not desirable.
From my perspective now, I believe that a fruitful and joyful life has more gravitas than a comfortable happy life. There will be times when life is happily comfortable and joyfully productive. Enjoy them! But when life is not comfortable or happy, it can still be joyful and fruitful.
Many scholars believe Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians from prison about AD 61, which would have been about 25 years after his conversion and six or seven years before he was executed. For those 25 years he was a zealous preacher of the gospel to anyone who would listen, primarily to Gentiles. Paul faced numerous sources of entrenched resistance to the gospel, and he endured ridiculous physical persecution. His life can’t have been easy or comfortable. At times it was excruciating.
No matter, he experienced joy.
He had learned to be content through good times and bad, and he understood that even while in prison he was advancing the gospel. Paul realized that whatever God brought his way was an opportunity to communicate the transforming truth of the gospel. That was what he lived for.
Paul lived a very weighty life, and we are still learning from him today. God had a unique call on his life, and he faithfully did everything he could to follow Jesus’s lead.
My life, on the other hand, has been for the most part comfortable and happy. God has arranged for me to encounter difficulties and challenges, and for those I am truly grateful. They have helped me to realize blessings for which I am not responsible, to consider my priorities carefully, and hopefully to produce fruit.
I want to live a consequential life full of fruit and joy. It’s easy to write that, to think about that when reading Philippians, but it is difficult to remember when I’m confronted with my desire for comfort and happiness.
A consequential life results from following Jesus, and trusting him to provide opportunities and experiences that will grow me, give me confidence, endurance, compassion and humility. He knows what he’s doing.
“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:17-18