By the way, as one who has been trying to follow the God made known in Jesus Christ for nearly forty years, let me say it can be hard. That's because God asks us to do things we don't want to do.
Even centuries before Jesus was born on earth, Abraham was asked to crucify his old comfortable life, going to a land he didn't know, to fulfill the purposes of God.
Today, Jesus calls us to follow Him in lives of daily trust, repentance, and renewal, submitting to the crucifixion of the old self, including our own preferences, so that our new selves--our God selves, the selves God designed us to be--can rise and live, today and in eternity.
The risen Jesus, in a sense, warned us all about how He might lead us into circumstances and to places over which we have no control, surrounded by people who, on this earth, may control or even harm us, when He told Peter (foretelling Peter's later imprisonment and death for his faith in Christ): "Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." (John 21:18)
Praying, meaning, and accepting it when we pray, "Thy will be done" is the hardest part of the Christian life. At least it has been for me.
And it's harder today than it's ever been since the Holy Spirit transformed this atheist into a believer.
Trust--what's also called faith--is foreign to my nature, foreign to human nature, and anyone who enrolls in the school of trust in Christ will, if they take their studies seriously, endure difficulties they wouldn't otherwise experience in life. But they will also experience great joys and the knowledge that, even when we don't feel it, the risen Christ is with us always.
I identify with Peter from an earlier point in John's gospel, well before Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. There, Jesus has just been rejected with cutting, violent words, by people who had believed in Him. (They had followed Jesus for utilitarian motives, not for new lives with God, but to get a few goodies on this earth. Jesus had made clear that He is no perfectly coiffed televangelist, promising smooth and happy lives to people who follow the rules of cheerfulness and positive thinking. Jesus came into the world not to give us what we want, but what we need, life with God. And that only comes to those willing to share in Christ's cross, the crucifixion of the old self with all its sin and sinful desires, and His resurrection, confessing their sin and turning away from dependence on anything other than Jesus Christ, true God and true man, alone.) Jesus turned to the twelve who had followed Him from the beginning and asked them if they too didn't want to abandon Him. Peter responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:6)
Jesus is still God in the flesh. No matter the detours, imagined or real. No matter what He calls on us to pick up or leave behind. But as an old praise song, its lyrics firmly rooted in the Bible's witness about Jesus, puts it:
There's no other wayThe Jesus of cross and empty tomb is the One I seek to and often fitfully, sometimes half-heartedly trust, sometimes with a heart shattered from disappointment that God's ways are not my ways, sometimes with a heart uplifted because His grace receives me and keeps loving me even when I'm most conscious of my unworthiness, often with resounding and sin-filled failure on my part.
No price that I could pay
Simply to the cross I cling
This is all I need
This is all I plead That His blood was shed for me Lead me to the cross of Jesus
Despite the detours, the Holy Spirit helps me to trust the God Who is faithful even when I'm not.
Help me to trust more, Lord. Help me to follow even when I don't understand. There is nowhere else to go. Amen and amen.