Anyone who has tried to be good discovers quite quickly that goodness can be difficult. The thing that is right is not always the same as the thing that is easy: doing what is right will sometimes mean doing difficult things. By difficult things, I do not necessarily mean complicated things. Keeping one’s temper when everyone else is losing theirs, biting your tongue when you’re tempted to spread some juicy gossip, or fighting temptations when one would much rather give in, are not complicated, but they can be very difficult.
Sadly, the difficulties of doing what is right is a reason that many people shy away from Christianity. In his 1910 book, “What’s Wrong with the World”, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” It’s true: Christianity is difficult. This is a religion that asks its followers to “take up their cross” and follow Jesus, who allowed himself to be brutally executed. “Take up your cross” is a pretty harsh thing to ask. We sometimes forget what a cross is: it’s an instrument of torture and execution. It is as if Christians were asked to “put your hangman’s noose around your neck”, or “sit in your electric chair”. Easy? Far from it.
But there’s more to the story. Christianity may ask for difficult choices from us, but it does not ask us to make them without help. I do not just mean the help that comes from doing things together with others: that’s true of most religions. I mean instead the help that comes from God himself. Christianity is not just a bunch of rules for doing right, it is a relationship with God himself, who helps us to do what is right. That is why it is vitally important for all Christians to learn how to pray, and to do it faithfully, so that we can have that vital living relationship with God that gives us the strength and wisdom to do what is right, even when it is difficult.
The truth is: there is no escaping difficulties in life. A Christian life can handle difficulties, because it expects them and trains us to do what is right despite them. A life that tries to avoid difficulties doesn’t actually succeed. Avoid difficulties all you want, but eventually they will find you, and how then will you handle them? It is better for us to realize that doing right is worth it even when it is difficult, and to embrace all the help that God offers to be good. Then when the times comes that being good is hard, we will stay constant in goodness, and truly be the loving people that God means us to be.
© Agapios Theophilus, 2016