You’ve met them. Unfortunately.
Every time you talk to them, their lives just couldn’t be going any better. Their kids are perfect. Their jobs are perfect. Their chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven perfect every time. Not a spiritual hair is out of place and God has rained down blessings that overflow into every nook and cranny of their existence. Their Facebook and other social media accounts tell you as much every day.
If your Christian life isn’t running on the same smooth rails as theirs, well, it’s because you either have sin in your life or not enough faith. And yes, I actually had one guy tell me this. Sorry, but these “perfect” Christians wear me out for the simple reason being their performance is all a sham.
When our girls were in junior high, my wife dealt with one of these perfect Christian moms on a routine basis. The lady would constantly tell my wife how faultless her kids were, along the lines of this is what Jesus must have been like growing up. It made my wife feel grossly inferior because our parenting lives were filled with daily drama and difficulties. But then, one day, it happened.
The woman was leaving my wife a voicemail and was talking in the same, sugary, perfect-pitch voice she always used. However, her children suddenly did/said something in the background that caused her to go off like a civil defense siren.
What followed in the next minute or so was pure honesty. Her kids were anything but perfect and she told them this. Their lives drastically fell short of perfection and she said so.
Then she realized she was still being recorded on my wife’s voicemail. Re-enter the sugary, perfect-pitch voice again with a few awkward laughs and an admission of a less-than-ideal day. Gotcha!
Jesus said simply, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34), and that applies to everyone, even you and me as believers. Find me just one person highlighted in either the Old or New Testament that had smooth sailing throughout their life. If you dare to take on that investigation, what you’ll find instead is the reverse: God’s people had lives that resembled the inside of a pinball machine. And that’s by design.
The fact is, if you have hardships and your life is anything but perfect it’s because, “when you encounter various trials … the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Paul says the same thing: “we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint” (Rom. 5:3-4).
Faking a perfect life and hiding the fact that you have struggles helps no one, and that includes you. But sharing, in the right way, the melees that come your way with others in the body of Christ helps everyone. Remember that bearing each other’s burdens is biblical (Gal. 6:2).
I got the chance to have lunch the other day with a guy who’s gone through some of the very same gut-wrenching battles as I have. I asked him how he felt going through the storm, what he thought of God at the time, and how it affected his prayer life both then and now. And he didn’t hold back.
He talked about not only the hardships in the past and the anger he felt, but the fact that they still trouble him to some degree today. The same is true for me. He admitted his frustrations with prayer that ran along the same lines as the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk who said, “I shout to you in vain; there is no answer … I cry, but no one comes to save” (Hab. 1:2).
But even though both of us experienced severe trials in life and, in fact, are still growing through them, we shared the reality of being “kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1) and being anchored in the faith. That experience was light years better than listening to another Christian pretending that their life is perfect.
So, if you’re one of those believers who feels shame in admitting to others that your days aren’t filled with unicorns and lollipops, I have two pieces of advice. First, drop the act; you aren’t fooling anyone.
And second, see your difficult times in a different light and realize they are molding into the image of Christ. Admitting your struggles to yourself and others is some of the best medicine for the soul you’ll ever take.