The Surprising Path to Overcoming

Do you ever feel like life is not fair? Of course, you have. We all run into those situations in life, but what are these circumstances telling us about God and our relationship with Him?

I have heard it said that there are two types of people in the world. There are mercy people, and there are justice people. Mercy people want to make the world right by giving others a second chance. Justice people want to make the world right by defending people who are suffering. I tend to lean towards being a justice person. Wait, does this mean I can be in the next Justice League movie?

Being a justice-oriented person causes me to feel the pain of mistreated people. When I see someone taking advantage of others, it hurts my heart and stirs me to action. Cut to workout montage where I prepare myself for battle like Rocky and Apollo Creed in Rocky III. 

The problem is, I cannot always correct the wrongs of the world. In my mind, I will overcome injustice, but that is not always the case. It is similar to when you are watching a show, and the bad guy gets the upper hand and then the show ends on a cliff hanger. Doesn’t that make you grit your teeth in frustration? I know it does for me, and that is how I think you should feel when you read Psalm 73:2-8,10-12:

But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong.They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty.These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others.And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words.“What does God know?” they ask. Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”Look at these wicked people—enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.

Psalm 73:2-8, 10-12 NLT

If you use social media as your guide, you might believe that overcoming mistreatment and unfairness is to put people on blast, stir up the mob, complain, criticize, and attack. For Christians, the surprising path to overcome mistreatment is different.

Getting stronger than those that come against us is not the solution. Running away is. That’s right, pull a Forrest Gump and solve your problems in a nice pair of Nike Cortez. When our problems are too big for us, then we should run – run to the one who is bigger than our problems, God. 

Not being able to overcome every injustice does show us something about God. It also teaches us about our relationship with him. It shows us God is merciful and gives people time to repent. Sometimes they do not. That is ok because God is also just. He will not leave us hanging, but He also wants us to learn something from situations where it seems we cannot overcome the bad guys in our story. 

We can see the solution in Psalm 64:1, 10 

O God, listen to my complaint. Protect my life from my enemies’ threats. The godly will rejoice in the Lord and find shelter in him. And those who do what is right will praise him.

Psalm 64:1, 10 (NLT)

We overcome by finding refuge in the Overcomer. We run away from our flesh’s and the world’s way of responding to problems and difficult people and run to our God. Not being able to be stronger than every difficult circumstance does not make you a weak person; refusing to admit that does. Unfair circumstances are just another (shall I say, good) reminder of how much we need God.

Hello, Again

Hello, Again

Well, this is awkward. I have not written a new blog post in quite some time. So, I guess this is Hello, Again.

At the beginning of the year, I took time off from blogging and social media. I like to do that once or twice a year since I am online so much. It is always refreshing, but I also enjoy being in this space. I like creating content and sharing the digital world with people. 

What Have I Been Up To

Lately, I have been posting a lot of Reels to Instagram in place of blogging. These are 15-30 second videos where I share an inspirational thought. Some of them are silly, and others I share things I think are important. You can find them here: https://www.instagram.com/joshroberie/.

I have also been using Facebook to share content I would typically place on this blog. The reason being is the interaction is built into each post, and I can count on Facebook to put it in front of more people instead of only subscribers seeing my blog posts. You can connect with my Facebook page here (where I also share my reels): https://www.facebook.com/JRoberie. If you want to connect with my personal profile, you can do that here: https://www.facebook.com/joshroberie.

I have also been writing for other outlets and continue to work on new book projects that I am excited to share more about soon.

What Is Next  

I will be posting new content to this site starting, well, now. I also really want to do a podcast. I have been planning it out for years but do not want to do it if I cannot do it with excellence. I am not sure it is in the budget to get studio space and equipment for something like that, but I hope to have an option soon and guests you would want to hear from. 

Thanks for being a reader. I am looking forward to sharing with you more in 2021!

Four Wrong Responses to the Pandemic

Why Are We Going Through a Pandemic?

Have you paused in the last ten months long enough to ask, “why?” Why are we going through a pandemic? God is love. He is omnipotent, and He is good. So why is all of creation groaning under the pain and suffering of a global pandemic?

We wondered the same thing after Hurricane Katrina. Was it the sin of New Orleans that brought this disaster upon the Gulf South region? Was God trying to get our attention?

You may even wonder something similar when things happen to you on a personal level. Are you experiencing bad things because God wants to punish you, correct you, or get your attention? If God loves me, and I was doing all the right things, then why am I experiencing bad things in my life?

God and the Pandemic

In God and the Pandemic, N.T. Wright poses the same questions concerning the pandemic in the opening chapter of the book. “Why is this happening? Is someone trying to tell us something? What are we supposed to do about it” (Wright)?

He then gives four typical responses to similar circumstances. I have seen them repeatedly during our Pandemic of 2020, but his examples are rooted in the ancient world.

Response 1: God Is Angry With Me

“In most of the ancient world, and many parts of the modern world too, major disasters (earthquakes, volcanoes, fires, plagues) are regularly associated with angry gods. Something bad has happened? Must be because ‘someone’ has it in for you” (Wright).

Is this plague like the flood of Noah? Is God punishing a world gone wild with sin? Even though God said He would never do that again (i), still 2/3’s of Christians believe the pandemic is a warning from God t change our ways (ii).

Response 2: This Is Just Part of God’s Plan

The Stoics believed, “Everything is programmed to turn out the way it does. You can’t change it; just learn to fit in” (Wright).

I have heard people say they do not want to wear a mask because if the virus is coming for them, so be it (iii). There isn’t anything they can do anyway. Everyone should just bite the bullet and let it come for those who will die anyway, and then the rest of us can get on with it.

Health experts have called intentional herd immunity “perverse” and a “terrible idea” (iv). This perspective also seems to go against the teaching of scripture:

“Don’t be selfish… Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:3-4

“He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21

“Whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31

“The Lord protects the strangers.” Psalm 146:9

God is Sovereign, but that does not mean we do not have a role to play as Christians in a pandemic.

Response 3: The Problems Are Someone Else’s Fault

According to the Epicureans, “everything is random. You can’t do anything about it. Make yourself comfortable as you can” (Wright).

Maybe you have thought, This will fade away soon, and things will be back to normal as soon as those “other” people start doing what they are supposed to or stop doing what they are not supposed to do.

We are not powerless in the pandemic, but we also should not enter the “the low-grade, but powerful ‘cultural wars’ [to] simply go for easy answers that reflect that irrelevant standoff” (Wright). Blaming China, the government, or people who do not wear masks without identifying your Christian responsibility when the world is hurting is not a viable solution.

Response 4: The End is Near

The Platonists “present life as just a shadow of reality. Bad things happen here, but we are destined for a different world” (Wright).

Wright says this is the point of view some Christians opt for. “Death isn’t the worst that can happen. We’re headed somewhere else anyway. All right, let’s be sensible, but please don’t shut down the churches. Or the golf clubs” (Wright).

The Christian Response

The best answer to why are we going through a pandemic might actually be a question. “‘What?’ What can we do?” When we volunteer to help those in need, we demonstrate the appropriate Christian response to a Pandemic (v). 

According to Wright, when we do this, we are modeling what the early Christians did in times of plagues. 

“In the first few centuries of our era, when serious sickness would strike a town or city, the well-to-do would run for the hills (patty of the problem was often low-lying, fetid air in a town). The Christians would stay and nurse people. Sometimes they caught the disease and died. People were astonished. What was that about? Oh, they replied, we are followers of this man Jesus. He put his life on the line to save us. So that’s what we do as well” (Wright).

Indeed, Jesus did command us to take up our cross and follow after Him (vi). He wants us to lay down our rights so that His Kingdom could be built here on earth as it is in Heaven. Oh, that the world would again be astonished by the Church in this same way. It is already happening through the generosity of believers, and I pray it will continue to be that way as we each navigate our personal responses to the pain of the pandemic.

(i) Genesis 8:21-22 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+8%3A21-22&version=NKJV

(ii)  https://www.fox6now.com/news/poll-63-of-religious-americans-believe-covid-19-pandemic-is-message-from-god-for-humanity-to-change

(iii) https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29793295/vikings-qb-kirk-cousins-coronavirus-die-die

(iv) https://sports.yahoo.com/should-teams-actively-seek-herd-immunity-from-the-coronavirus-234449908.html

(v) God and The Pandemic, N.T. Wright Chapter 1 page 3.

(vi) Matthew 16:24-26 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2016%3A24-26&version=ESV

Is It Unspiritual to Feel Forsaken?

Where Is God When It Hurts

Is it unspiritual to feel forsaken? While the feeling itself is not spiritual, it is important to know emotions are also not unspiritual. Authenticity is an essential attribute of true spirituality. Being honest about how we feel is not the same as letting our feelings control us, and going through a hard time does not mean you are less spiritual than someone who is not.

Inauthentic spirituality wants you to feel guilty about feeling bad. It says to have something going wrong in your life means there must be something wrong with you. This faux spirituality projects an image of perfection that easily chips under further inspection.

Is It OK To Be Honest About Our Pain

Psalm 38 is an excellent example of how God encourages us to be honest about our hurts, doubts, and sufferings.

We first see that he is honest about his sins and shortcomings.

1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,

Performance Christianity makes it challenging to find healing and deliverance from our sins because that mentality makes it difficult for us to own and take responsibility for our mistakes. When imperfection leads to rejection, redemption becomes impossible. Instead, we get hiding, defending, and hypocrisy.

Authenticity Is Not UnSpiritual

As we continue with this Psalm, we see that authenticity is celebrated, not avoided.

6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

Some may say that David is being negative and needs to focus on the bright side of things. That perspective causes us to miss out on the hidden treasure found in God only when we bring our authentic feelings to Him.

Not Everyone Understands Our Pain

Then we come to feelings of rejection.

11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.

Have you ever been in a situation that is so bad when friends try to relate their lack of understanding only highlights the pain more? They want to summarize your suffering in an attempt to empathize, but as foreigners to your turmoil, they fall short of fully describing your experience.

This is a tough place to be, but you are not alone. We have Psalms like this to remind us that when no one else understands, God does. He is with this in these moments. When human friendship falls short of relating to our sorrow, we get an invitation to intimacy with God that we would not have received otherwise. He draws us in, under the shadow of his wing, to offer comfort and refuge.

How To Respond to Difficult People

People are not the enemy, but as this Palm shoes, the enemy uses people to introduce conflict in our spiritual path. How does David respond to these attacks?

13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

David uses these attacks to fine-tune his spiritual sensitivities. He knows some voices should be ignored. We should not listen to them, and we need not engage with them. Instead, we should refocus on elevating God’s voice above all others and responding to what He says about us and to us.

15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”
17 For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me.

What We Learn From Waiting

Waiting is what makes authentic Christianity difficult. We do not want to deal with waiting. It gives us the opportunity to doubt ourselves and God and to believe our enemies are right. It takes more faith to wait than it does to act, sometimes.

Something else happens when we learn to ignore the wrong voices, listen to the right voice, and wait before acting.

18 I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.

When we do this, we are able to recognize the sin in our lives that hinders our relationship with God, others and prevents us from being the best reflection of them. When we respond to every attack and wrong voice, then we fall into the trap of blaming others and overlooking our own shortcomings. When we tune our spiritual station to God’s voice and wait, we often do not hear him pointing out what is wrong with others, but rather what he wants to change in us.

The Path to Redemption

This does not mean that the problem people in your life will go away.

19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good.

I have found that the names and faces change, but there will always be “problem people” in my life. My goal is not to change them or remove them. Instead, I try to focus on what needs to change and be removed from me.

21 Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

God will be a refuge for you when you feel attacked and a comforter when you feel forsaken. That does not mean that he also does not want to help you grow through your adversity. I do not think His final plan of redemption for you is possible without you going through that metamorphosis. You will have to change ad God changes your circumstances for you.

A Response to Political Corruption and Injustice

What Christians Can Learn From Jesus’ Political Problems

In John 18, we see two approaches to the unfair removal of a person of influence and a government’s unjust rule. Before we get into that, let’s look at what led to this controversial overstep of the ruling elite.

They Never Gave Him A Chance

Those in power resisted Jesus from the moment he came onto the political stage. He was a threat to leaders with influence on all sides. They tried to trap him, manipulate the narrative about him, and denied the legitimacy of his good works. Then came the awful day when they would finally have their chance to remove him from his perch of popularity with the masses. Does any of this sound familiar?

Protesting a Just Cause

How did his followers respond to this corruption and oppression of their message? They took out the sword. Peter slashed with all his might. He resisted the injustice with force – attacking the crooked power-hungry political agents that had come against him, ahem, I mean, God’s ways. He sliced off the high priest’s servant’s ear. Is this not unlike many of the responses we see on social media from Christians reacting to the current political climate? Could it be this is also symbolic of how we remove people’s ability to hear the gospel message from us when we attack them because of their political differences?

Maybe There Is Another Way

Jesus’ response was different. He said to put away the sword. Instead of dividing, he healed. In fact, Jesus restoring Malchus’s ear was his final miracle before the resurrection. This causes me to consider that maybe we gain more influence by being a part of the healing than we do by taking up the sword.

Instead of fighting back against outsiders, Jesus surrendered by allowing himself to be unjustly arrested. Being both the Lion and the Lamb, he did not go to slaughter silently. He spoke truth to power without sparing those who most protected his people’s interest. He did not brush their ungodly behavior under the political rug. How often we make excuses for leaders who offer us political refuge but live contrary to all we hold sacred. Jesus did not prop up these types of leaders in unrighteous reverence. He contended for the Kingdom of Heaven instead of compromising with those who could grant him favor with governing leaders.

What Is The Difference?

What caused the disparity between the response of Jesus and that of his disciples? We can find the answer in John 16. This is where Jesus confronts the worldly perspective of his followers. Even then, as they approached the end of their time with Jesus, they still did not view their current predicament with spiritual eyes. They lacked a heavenly perspective on their earthly situation, but why did they not see things correctly?

How Jesus prepared for this moment shows us why He trusted His Father’s plans while his disciples tried to take matter matters into their own hands. In the first verse of John 18, we see Jesus “had finished praying” right before the confrontation over the White House. Oops. There I go, again. I mean before the confrontation in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

We know the disciples failed to pray with Jesus even though he asked them to join him in doing so. Right before his arrest, Jesus corrected Peter about his lack of prayer in Matthew 26:39:

“And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”

Where Is Your Hope?

Our political loyalties should not overshadow our role in Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven. We, as the church, should not be slashing around like Peter. Instead, we should be a source of healing like Jesus. The actions we take in times like these are directly connected to where our hope resides, or rather in whose presence we draw security. Prayer is not just a precaution or a response to persecution. It is where we find the power to bring healing to those who are hurting and the perspective to be a light in confusing times.

Keys to a High Performance Christianity (Part Two)

A Life Changing Perspective

“The greatest question in all of human life is summed up when we ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’”

Charles M. Sheldon, In His Steps

Read part one of High-Performance Christianity here.

Step 6: Perspective

My life changed dramatically when I honestly asked if my opinions were based on Jesus or popular Christian culture. 

Examine your past teachings and current convictions through the example of Jesus. Start asking, what would Jesus do in this situation, instead of what others expect me to do. Abandon stereotypes of how you think a Christian should behave and make it your goal to embrace what Christ would say or do.

Step 7: Authenticity 

One of the most fun parts of embracing grace is learning to accept yourself and unashamedly live comfortably in your own skin. It can be intimidating to do this in a church world of behavior modification. You cannot live authentically while trying to live up to the preferences of people. 

Honestly, I can’t guarantee being the real you will be celebrated. I have just come to the place I would rather be rejected for being who I really am than accepted but exhausted trying to maintain everyone’s expectations for me.

Step 8: Guard 

A grace-filled person knows to guard their heart. Be aware of the “old ways,” as I call them, sneaking back into your life. 

I have become an expert at apologizing to people I do not think deserve an apology. This is not being fake. It is guarding my heart against making other people my debtors. I want to set people free. I do not want to be their prison guard holding them captive until they ask me for forgiveness. That’s no fun for either of us.

Leaving your religious rut means leaving old perspectives and possibly past relationships behind as well. It will hurt when people misunderstand your new positive Jesus-oriented approach to life. You will have to protect your feelings from this. There will be those who give grace a bad name by using it as an excuse to sin. Do not let this distract you. Keep heading down your own path. You will also have to watch out for pollutants that can distract you from the Lover of your soul. Keep your wellspring pure and refreshing.

Step 9: Rest 

I used to think a restful day was a wasted day. I would feel condemnation whenever a day went by where I had nothing to do. At some point, I read a Japanese proverb that said, “He who rests is never tired.” Something clicked, and rest became a principle that supports two main ideas for me.

The first is the Sabbath. True rest is part of worship. It acknowledges my need for God. It causes me to humbly admit that even if I did work 24/7, I could never accomplish everything God has for me without Him. It also causes me to pause long enough to appreciate things, and therefore express gratitude to God. 

The second is longevity. “He who rests is never tired.” If I learn to recoup and rejuvenate, I will have more energy for the task at hand. I’ll be better prepared to do my best when it is time to work. I won’t burn out and can last longer in the race. Every marathon has water tables, and a runner that expects to win knows the importance of pacing. Rest is not laziness. It is humility, worship, and intentionality.

Step 10: Value

Get your value from who you are in Christ instead of where you are in life. Religious burnout will always fight to turn this around. It causes you to complicate things. Valuing your position in Christ over your performance for Christ forces you to keep it simple. If you seek to be close to God’s heart, then your heart will start beating like His, and you will live your life as Jesus did.

Keys to a High-Performance Christianity

Part One of Two

“The truth of the gospel is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole heart. When we ignore this heart aspect of our faith and try to live out our religion solely as correct doctrine or ethics, our passion is crippled, or perverted, and the divorce of our soul from the heart purposes of God toward us is deepened.”

John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance

The Engine of Your Soul

The key to a high-performance Christianity is not to focus on your performance at all. Instead, fix your eyes on the lover of your soul. Grow in your love relationship with Jesus, and you will always do more, produce more, and find more meaning in your faith. Living out of a love relationship does more for the engine of your soul than pulling up your bootstraps and being committed to religious duty ever will.

We have established we all have access to God only because of His kindness towards us. It is your response that brings about His blessing. This principle goes far beyond just the salvation experience. 

To help you with this I would like to offer ten steps to a high-performance Christianity.

Step 1: Responsibility 

Take responsibility for where you are. Do not blame anyone else. You will never experience personal growth while focusing on someone else’s need to change. Even Job, when he was proved right by God, still received correction in areas he could grow.

Step 2: Forgiveness 

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most significant demonstrations of grace is the ability to forgive. 

I no longer try to hold everyone accountable. I can more positively influence others by loving them, pointing them to God, and letting Him be the judge.

Forgive those who hurt and disappoint you. This includes offering grace to leaders who do not offer it to others themselves. 

I have learned one of the most important lessons about forgiveness from my wife, Amy. She realized you should not hope others will be exposed for their wrongs. Instead, you should pray they will be exposed to the right things. God has a way of taking care of the rest when you do this. 

Step 3: Generosity 

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does”

– Martin Luther

Generosity is part of the lifestyle of a grace-filled believer. It is not just about finances.

It can be fun to find practical ways to be generous throughout the day with your words, attitudes, actions, and resources. You can do this by being an encourager or sharing your belongings. Have a bucket of positivity ready to pour out when you sense someone being negative instead of pointing out their mistakes. 

Step 4: Thankfulness 

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

– Malcolm Forbes

Embracing grace requires an intentional shift to an attitude of gratefulness. One way to measure your thankfulness is in how you respond to everyday disappointments. 

How do you react when your order is wrong at a restaurant? If a side item, or something else trivial, is mixed up do you humbly accept it? Or do open a grand investigation on the scale equal to a possible poisoning of a member of the royal family?

You may be thinking, “Well, I am the one paying for that meal, and I expect it to be right!” To that, I would ask, have you ever worked in a kitchen? Have you ever had someone make you feel worthless over something that was out of your control?

Instead of complaining about how, “it’s hard to find good help these days,” and how “this restaurant used to be a great place to go eat,” just be thankful you can afford a meal and are able to spend time with friends and family. Then leave a generous tip. Let’s not just share God’s grace. Give some of your own as well. You will never be the same if you do. 

Step 5: Read Differently

Start reading the Bible differently. Instead of looking at passages through an old performance-oriented filter, read through a lens of grace. 

Do not allow reading the Bible to become a checklist item. I would prefer you put your reading plan aside for a season then allow spending time in God’s word to become a task that creates spiritual pride.

I would suggest reading in Galatians to help reset your bible reading filter. Pray through it as you are read. Ask God questions and let Him speak to you. You can also spend some time just going through the Psalms to find healing. Another option is to read the gospels and see how Jesus treated sinners and responded to the spiritually proud. 

In my next post we will go over the other five keys to a high-performance Christianity in part two.

Are You Tired of Being a Christian?

How to turn your exhausting religion into an enjoyable relationship

“If my activism, however well-motivated, drives out love, I am stuck with law, not the gospel of grace. then I have misunderstood Jesus’ gospel.” 

Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Depleted Yet Applauded

Have you ever met someone who is more interested in complaining about being exhausted than they are in receiving help? Burnout is the red badge of courage for some Christians. They would rather live depleted yet applauded than refreshed and balanced. A balanced life is not as attractive to them because it often goes unnoticed.  

What is the draw of exhaustion? It is where you find your justification to complain, compare, and criticize when you are stuck in a religious performance trap. It causes you to feel protected from criticism when you fall short. “How could I have done anything wrong? Look at how hard I work!” 

It also re-enforces your offense when you do not get what you think you deserve. “Why are they being promoted instead of me? I have cooked and cleaned while they have wasted time instead of working!”

Martha, Did You Know?

What did Mary know in Luke 10:38-42 that Martha did not?

A “Martha” measures her prayers, Bible reading, and serving. Her spiritual speedometer makes it easier to determine what she deserves and what others do not. The problem with this practice is you never really know what is going on with others behind closed doors. That is God’s business and not yours.

A “Mary” may seem to neglect some things, but she does not lose sight of the most important thing. Her reward is not in getting recognized, but rather in experiencing the pleasure of God’s presence. She usually ends up getting both.

It can be hard to see someone receive more for doing less, but that is not what this is all about. If things really were fair none of us would like what we got. 

I used to be a Martha myself. I took pride in having a hard time resting. I always felt I needed to be doing something. “I must be more committed than others,” I thought, “because I do not even enjoy taking a break.” 

This line of thinking should be a red alert on the dashboard of your spiritual life. It is not a medal of accomplishment you hang proudly around your neck. It reveals a restless soul that is not at peace.

The Performance Trap

As I have said before, you should value your position in Christ over your performance for Christ. When you over-emphasize performance, you end up getting less of it. Eventually, this leads to religious burnout. 

The Christian performance trap wants you to believe it is unspiritual to ever say no to spiritual things. The reality is, it is not spiritual to always say yes to more. It is more spiritual to say, “yes” to your priorities, the things God has asked you to do, and “no” to good things that take you away from those things.

Religious Formulas

Your good works should be motivated by your love relationship with Jesus and not a spiritual reward system. You make God your debtor when you work hard because you think He will bless you with what you want at the end of your labors (position, recognition, etc.).

Religious formulas like this can also influence how you pray and navigate problems. For example, “If I pray or do this, and have enough faith, then God will do that.” This mindset boxes God in to only what you can understand. It offers a easy fix to your problems that resembles a “get rich quick” scheme. The problem is, you inevitably become discouraged in your relationship with God when things do not work out the way you thought they would. 

All of this adds an unnecessary weight to your spiritual journey. 

It can be hard to follow the Holy Spirit day-to-day instead of trusting in things that bring immediate comfort. Checking off a box seems easier than checking-in with God. The box does not challenge us or require waiting. Even so, we should always choose a relationship with a living God over dead religious formulas. 

A Labor of Love

Exhaustion often begins with passion, zeal, and good intentions. You may be able to lift something you were never meant to carry, but you will drop it before you reach your destination. Lay down your heavy burden of burnout Christianity and take up the yoke of Christ. It is easy and light. It is a labor of love.

Loosen Your Halo

How to start enjoying your Christian Faith

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman

Finding Pleasure

In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning tells the story of a man who goes to his doctor with a splitting headache. After further inspection, it turns out the proud man’s life is perfect. There really shouldn’t be any reason for his stabbing pain. That is when the doctor gives his final diagnosis, “It looks like your halo is on too tight.”

I used to have a hard time believing God took pleasure in me finding pleasure in life. This may sound confusing to someone who has never been in a religious performance cycle. Those with similar experiences as me will quickly know what I mean. Taking walks and enjoying hobbies can be difficult for someone who thinks they need to always be doing to be pleasing to God.

A halo that is too tight shines its light on sin so intensely it hardly brightens any other part of the believer’s life. 

The Voice of the Oppressor

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

A guilty conscience may appear to be spiritual sensitivity. It is actually closer to a focus on sin instead of God. Sometimes this unhealthy pattern is confused with the godly guilt that leads to repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:10 shows us the difference:

“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” 

 2 Corinthians 7:10

The destructive kind of guilt brings attention to your sin and leaves you there. Godly conviction is different. It alerts you to what is in the way of your relationship with God. It then offers grace so you can change. Condemnation brings repeated failure. Conviction breaks that cycle with grace. 

Enjoying Life

Christianity is paradoxical. You give so you can gain. You serve to lead. But is suffering a requirement to please God? I do not think so. Suffering and obedience are not the same things. Christians should be willing to suffer in obedience when it is necessary. At the same time, your obedience should more often bring delight than pain. 

Psalm 37:4 says God “will give you your heart’s desires.” The Holy Spirit places the right desires in your heart and also brings them to pass. He wants your godly ambitions to be seeds that grow into fruitful trees. When this happens, your thriving life will bring glory to Him and provide nourishment to others. 

Time to Tune In

Christians should not feel bad about feeling good and good about feeling bad. This jams the signals of your heart. We know God wants you to tune into your heart because He tells you to guard your heart above all else (Proverbs 4:23). If you should not be listening to your heart, then why is it so essential to protect it? 

Do not confuse guarding your heart with turning it off. While being led by your feelings is destructive, so is ignoring them altogether. The frequency of your heart gets scrambled when you equate feeling bad with being more spiritual.

Guarding your heart should include dying to your flesh, tuning out the wrong messages of the world, and ignoring the deceiver’s voice. These are all things that pollute your heart. You should “feel good” about protecting your heart’s desires, not denying them. If you are too busy finding things to feel guilty about, then you will not have time to dream for God. You will be on the sideline instead of bringing about the change He wants to see. It is time to tune into your heart and stop feeling bad about feeling good.

Pursuit Instead of Perfection

“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.”

Bob Goff, Love Does

Pursuing the Perfect One

There is a difference between seeking the Perfect One and pursuing perfection. Christians should strive to be like Christ, but also have the humility to know Jesus is the only one who will ever be perfect. 

The path to religious burnout says you are on an uphill climb that leads to the peak of perfection. In actuality, it is a hamster wheel that never ends. 

The Imperfect Obsession

Perfection Christianity is centered on you instead of Christ. You can know if you are stuck in perfection instead of pursuit by asking, “Would I do the same good works if God were the only one who knew about them?” When receiving credit for what you do becomes more important than God getting the glory for giving you the strength to do those good works, then you have slipped into perfectionism. 

This mindset believes you deserve recognition for what you do, but there is always a good “spiritual” reason why others do not. “I don’t want them to get prideful if I praise them too much! Then they will stop growing. By the way, why haven’t they told me how awesome I am lately?”

This imperfect obsession will not allow you to rest and enjoy God. It causes you to do things that will get noticed and ignore the things He values that do not. You must continue to perform and reach for perfection to find meaning in your faith.

Missing the Point

Championing pursuit over perfection is key to sustaining a meaningful Christianity. Jesus simplified faith, but perfection complicates it. 

Discipline and rituals are good until they become substitutes for what they intend to protect. I like to think of my convictions as those bumps on the side of the road that let you know when you begin to drift out of your lane. They are great at reminding you to realign your steering but would make a terrible GPS system. If your standards turn your warm, loving relationship with God into cold hard religion, then they are missing the point.

You do not have to get rid of your spiritual guidelines or moral code to overcome burnout. The rules of the road keep us safe, but they are not the reason why we drive. The solution is neither becoming more disciplined nor abandoning rules altogether. It is returning to your first love and pursuing God heart.  

The Work of Love

Look at what Jesus said to the church of Ephesus about their attempt to be perfect without love.

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first…”

Revelation 2:2-5a

What are the works they did at first? It is the work of love. It is loving God and letting what you do for others overflow from that instead of maintaining a religious standard. Pursuit brings freedom. Jesus’ pursuit of us brought us freedom from sin (Romans 5:8). Our pursuit of Him will keep us free from religious bondage (Galatians 5:1). He wants you to pursue Him in response, not perfection. Who or what are you pursuing?