Question: "In what ways is being a Christian difficult?"
Answer: Anyone who tells you that committing your life to Christ makes your life easier is not telling the truth. Fulfilling, yes. More joyful, absolutely. But easier? No. In some ways, life gets more difficult after we come to Christ. The struggle against sin is more pronounced, for one thing. Laziness, gluttony, swearing, anger, envy, self-centeredness, materialism, covetousness, intimacy issues—the temptations seem never-ending. The world, the flesh, and the devil don’t go away because we have stepped into a relationship with Christ.
The 2,000-year-old list of sins in Galatians 5:19–21 is still familiar ground for those of us living in the 21st century. That list is followed by another list—the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is the change from the works of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit that can prove difficult.
Accepting Christ as Savior means we receive instant justification before God (Romans 10:10). We are reconciled to Him, and we have all the legal rights and privileges of a son or daughter (John 1:12). We now have a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
What is often overlooked is that we also need to accept Christ as Lord. Being a blood-bought child of God means we give up the right to ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:20). This is the point where sanctification begins, and this moment-by-moment dying to self continues as long as we live in our earthly bodies (Matthew 16:24).
The Spirit’s regeneration sets off an alert system that lets us know things have changed. Sinful behaviors that we once found comfortable no longer are. The old way of life grows rather—old (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Being a Christian is difficult because we must now confront our lives from a different worldview that comes with a new set of values—God’s values. We are immersed in a world system that trumpets its ideals and slanders anyone who demurs. Before we are saved, we accept what the world says without even thinking about it. We don’t know anything else. After we are saved, our eyes are opened to the truth, and we can perceive the lies of the world. Fighting against those lies can be difficult.
Being a Christian is difficult because, once we are saved, we are suddenly swimming upstream, against the current of the world around us. Though our appetites will change, our sanctification can be a difficult process. Friends no longer understand us; our families question our new involvements and associations. Those we love often feel rejected, angry, and defensive. They don’t see why we can no longer continue in our old ways.
Being a Christian is difficult because it requires growth. God loves us too much to let us stay the same. Growth can be painful at times, and we usually don’t like to leave our comfort zone, but positive change is always rewarding. As we grow in Christ, we realize that God isn’t just desirous of our conforming to a set of rules. He wants all of us; He wants a crucified life, given totally to Him. We learn through obedience and trust to find rest in His guidance.
Being a Christian is difficult because we must constantly say “no” to our own fleshly desires and yield to the Spirit. We learn to handle conflict with grace, instead of through retaliation. We learn to forgive, rather than hold grudges. We learn to replace the vacillating emotions we once called love with true, unconditional love. We grow through the opportunity to die to ourselves daily, to become obedient.
Yes, being a Christian is difficult in many ways. But that’s only half the story. The difficulties believers face are not tackled alone. Every challenge is met through the power of Christ who lives within us (Philippians 4:13). The faithful follower of Christ is never completely overwhelmed (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).
There are definite, eternal rewards for following Christ (Luke 18:29–30). We learn by experience that God’s ways are better, safer, and more reliable than the world’s ways. Our trusting obedience to God becomes the pathway to a transformed and abundant life (John 10:10).