7 min. to read.
Christianity is about all of life. We get this, right?
We’re no longer trying to live a compartmentalized life with a little side portion of faith. We understand that following Jesus impacts every part of our lives. Not just our morals and beliefs, but also our relationships, our vocation, our finances, and even our politics.
We aspire to this kind of vibrant, holistic faith, but then the idea of an all-encompassing faith has its own dark side. When we set out to be a good Christian in this new holistic way, we can quickly find that the bar is impossibly high.
Things can get out of hand quickly. Here’s what I mean.
I want to be a good Christian. Clearly, that means being a good person. Kind and thoughtful, patient and able to forgive.
But that’s not all.
I know I’m supposed to make scripture my foundation, so I want to read it. Like my Grandmother did—every day, without fail.
But it’s not always easy to understand, so I want to be able to understand and apply it to my life in simple and practical ways, kind of like Joyce Myers seems to be able to do so easily.
At the same time, I’m aware that scripture is an ancient book, written by different cultures in different languages over generations. So I want to be able to study it in light of the ancient context, like N.T. Wright can do.
Also, I know that Bible study on its own is just the beginning. We take what we read, and we connect the dots. When we do this, articulating what we’ve learned, we’re doing theology. Well, I want to be able to do that well!
But in two thousand years, there have been a lot of side-tracks and false-starts. It’s so easy to overlay agendas of self and power and empire on scripture when we do our theology, so I probably need to know more about church and theological history so that I can avoid the mistakes of the past.
And then, as I write this, I realize that faith isn’t all about books and ideas. No! A relationship with God isn’t all about dead letters on old pages. It’s happening right now.
So, I want to pray. I want to pray like my grandmother did, every day with reverence and faith. But, I know there are lots of ways to pray, so maybe I need to study and practice those, too.
But which kind? There’s liturgical prayer and extemporaneous prayer, prayer journaling and Lectio Divina, intercessory prayer, and spiritual warfare prayer, and prayers for healing. And, of course, I need to be praying more than a few minutes a day.
But at the same time, I remember that following Jesus isn’t ultimately about me, and the things I do in my own devotional life. My life is not my own! I’m called to go into all the nations, so I need to live this out. I want to make a difference!
So, of course, I’ll be a kind person, and gracious, and forgiving as best I can. At the least, this means treating everyone with dignity, regardless of their skin color or political views. And I’ll do my best to be a reconciler, helping bring peace where I can.
But there’s more. Isn’t there?
Do I try mission work, heading out into the world to declare the gospel? And if I can’t, should I at least support a missionary financially? Or maybe, if I find international missions problematic, I should support some local ministry. Perhaps a ministry for the homeless, or hungry, or maybe something in healthcare.
And, of course, just giving dollars isn’t enough. I need to be involved, too.
A good Christian would volunteer, right? I’m a part of a community of other followers of Jesus. So, that probably means attending a worship service every week. Probably being a part of a small group where we can support and encourage each other. I should perhaps also volunteer in church ministry in some way. Teach a class, or play guitar for the worship team.
But, we’re not just supposed to go to church services, right? “Go be the church,” right? So, I ought to get involved in my community. Volunteer with my kid’s theater group or join a book club or pitch in with the neighborhood clean-up crew. I should get to know my neighbors. How else will I show Jesus’ love, if I’m not in a relationship with people?
And now that I mention it, getting involved in my community probably means thinking about how we organize our lives together, and that’s politics! Following Jesus is supposed to shape the way I see the world, isn’t it?
So, now I’m supposed to have a Jesus-informed view about things like abortion and healthcare and taxes and immigration and prison reform. And since we deal with all of that stuff through a political system, I really need to be informed about the political options available to me. Otherwise, how else can I vote my conscience?
I’m sure there’s more.
I can’t remember it all right now. My brain seems to be shutting down.
Let’s trade all of that in.
Are you tired after reading all of that? I’m tired after writing it.
Christianity is about all of life. We get this, right? We’re no longer trying to live a compartmentalized life with a little side portion of faith. We understand that following Jesus impacts every part of our lives.
And yet, sometimes it feels like being a Christian obligates us to a million things. Even if we dedicated eighteen hours a day, every day of the week, we would barely begin to scratch the surface.
When something seems this overwhelming, it can just be easier to set it all aside. Maybe the old compartmentalized Jesus-on-the-weekend kind of life was enough.
Or worse, we can start to feel like it’s all pointless.
That’s precisely why it’s so crucial to get clear on the one thing that matters most.
Jesus told his disciples in the upper room, “In that day you will know that I am in the Father, you are in me and I am in you.” (John 14:20)
A few verses later he unpacked that more explicitly, when he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
See, the only way we are going to be able to navigate the countless options and opportunities of our life of faith is by focusing on the Abiding Presence.
There are nearly infinite things we can aspire to in our lives, but there is only one moment called now. And that moment–the one present moment we are currently, actually living in–is the only moment where our life and choices intersect with the infinite existence of God.
Are we responding to the Spirit now, in this moment?
Are we acting in love in this moment?
Are we applying the life of Christ to the conversation, or the vocational decision, or the relationship in front of us, in this moment?
In that sacred place–this one present moment–our limited human heart can respond to the gentle presence of the Spirit.
And that is indeed the only thing that matters.
11 thoughts on “When Christianity seems like just too much.”
Whew! Yes I am tired! Exactly what I have been thinking recently. Exhortations from fellow Christians and my home church pastor about bible study and being the church and hands and feet of Jesus and spending more time in prayer…it is all exhausting. Because I already try to do all of those things.
But it’s the moments that I don’t stop and think before acting or speaking that prick my conscience later whenever i stop and think about it.
The struggle is real.
So many good things! And yet all those good things can become the obstacle to a real spiritual life! Focus on following Christ in the moment you are in, regardless of what that moment is. The abundant life is a whole lot more than a never-ending schedule of church activities!
Hi Marc, I love this article “following Christ in the moment”. Being a member of a church changed my childlike faith into you have to be perfect for God to listen to your prayer or even accept you. This ideology has kept me doubtful and scared because everyone is getting everything right and every time I check I find failures in me.
Recently, i heard the sweet counsel of the Spirit of God telling me how he helps the believer that’s he guides me in the moment to do or not to do things that are against his righteousness. He leads me in the path of righteousness in the moment. Thank God it’s one day at a time – moment by moment. Trying to do it by myself is very Pharisee like. Again thanks for the post
Amen! I love this. That is the path of spiritual growth and living in the ongoing presence of Jesus.
Genius! I’m so fried. Church is hard/impossible for me. Politics, crazy and confounding people abound. I’m deeply vexed my it all. Not getting used to it, stress not lessening. What in hades has happened to “people of faith”? It’s a mess. I’ve been avoiding the Lord because I feel I can’t take anymore “stimuli”. I’ve been a sincere believer for 40 plus years.
Time to go back to the essence. Thank you for the lifeline.
Deeply vexed. That nails it. You are not alone, Suzanne. There are a lot of people in the same boat. When you can find healthy, life-giving Christian community it can be a real gift — but even when you can’t, know you are not alone.
Thank you for your personal response.
That makes me so happy!
Reminds me of the verse – “Are you tired, worn out, burned out on religion? Come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” … something like that. I think I’ve been tired, worn out and burned out on religion for a while now. Thanks for writing this.
The only thing keeping me going is when I allow myself not to fall into all the “shoulds” and “oughts.” But just sit in God’s presence. The most frustrating part, is when I just need to accept my belovedness right now – and my fellow Christian family and friends are concerned that I’m not actually following the truth of God. 😢 F that :/ just really over Christians and their judgment of my life rn.
I hear you. Somehow many in our extended Christian family seem to feel that it’s their appointed duty to measure and judge everyone’s thoughts and actions. It makes real intimacy and community difficult. It’s tiring!
*Sigh* Glad you’re here. Glad this spoke to you. Take a deep breath and know that Spirit is with you even now, and that who you are and the state of your heart is known by One who knows you fully, and is entirely for you.
Thanks Marc – I took those deep breaths – and resting in those truths tonight ⬆️ also re-read my comment from earlier – probably not the most graceful, but I suppose it shows my true tiredness.
A lot of us are tired. Figuring out how to do all of this in the midst of this soul-deep tiredness and ache is what we’re all up to.