By Jamin Roller
Scripture Reading: Ezra 4:1-23, Lamentations 3:55-60, Matthew 5:10-12
There is a false belief I must confront in myself every time I read a passage like the one we read today. To state it simply, it’s something like, “If I am doing what’s right, it will be easy.” I know it’s not true, but even still, I am quick to assume that difficulty, criticism, loss, or suffering of any kind is God’s way of saying, “You are doing something wrong!”
When parenting is challenging, it means I am doing it wrong. When pastoring is difficult, it means there is something I haven’t figured out yet. When marriage is not full of fairy-tale bliss, it means there is some major flaw I haven’t uncovered yet. And the assumption behind the thinking is that obedience equals ease. Do you ever think like that?
Our passage reminds us of something we see all over the Bible. You can be right in the middle of God’s will and be right in the middle of difficulty, trial, and pain simultaneously. Obedience does not equal ease.
Think about how discouraging it must have been for the Israelites at this point in the story. Ezra 3 ends with a lot of the people rejoicing and celebrating. The foundation was complete, and excitement was building. They sang of the love and faithfulness of God. Maybe they thought, “this is what it feels like to be doing God’s will.” Surely the next day they woke with energy and excitement over continuing the work.
Then one conversation goes poorly: “The people who were already in the land” (Ezra 4:4) turn against them, and it all starts to unravel. A large and powerful people conspire against them to keep them from doing what God has sent them there to do, and for a while, they succeed. The chapter ends with the people being physically forced to stop the work. How discouraging that must have been. Maybe they thought to themselves, “what did we do wrong?” or even “why would God let this happen?” They discovered long before I did that obedience is not easy.
On this side of the cross, Jesus helps us here. We heard it in His own words in Matthew 5:10–12. According to our Savior, not only should we expect persecution, trial, and opposition, we should rejoice when it happens. That kind of suffering is not a sign that something is going wrong, it can tell us that we are right in the middle of where God wants us. Our rich history is filled with stories of men and women who obeyed God and, in their obedience, life got much harder.
Maybe you are pursuing the Lord, and there is some kind of unexpected difficulty in your life right now. Be encouraged. God does not promise ease as we follow Him, but He does promise to be with us. We can trust Him with the outcome and faithfully offer our obedience with full confidence that He has not left us.
Written by Jamin Roller