Is struggling to be a Christian a normal experience?
To me religion is a struggle, finding the right path and sticking to it.
Weakness creeps in and I fall. But I will always keep trying and learning.
Please give me something I can relate to so I know I’m normal.
Yes the Christian life is a struggle. We are never going to have that moment, at least not while we live, where we can say that we have ‘conquered pride and now were moving on to jealousy’! However, the Apostle Paul exclaims in Romans 6 that we have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Yet, a little later he commands us to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies. So, how can sin be dead to us and yet at the same time still be alive enough to have the opportunity to reign? There is a really interesting dynamic going on here.
You see, for Christians, when Christ came from the Father he dealt with the power and penalty of sin. The penalty of sin is death; Jesus’ own death means that death is no longer fearful for us. For we know that we will be raised to be in perfect relationship with him The power of sin is seen by who our master is - previously we were slaves to sin, but now being freed from the power of sin we can serve God. But, the presence of sin is still here. This is something that will only be dealt with upon the return of Jesus. So, we live with some tension. On the one hand, we can exclaim with Paul that we are dead to sin, but on the other hand, we still need to continually struggle with sin. Maybe an illustration will be helfpul - Sin is a bit like a chicken with its head cut off, after the chicken loses its head it still runs around for a while before dying. This is the situation for us today; sin’s penalty and power are dead to us, but it still running around with its head cut off!
John Calvin, a great Reformer from the 16th Century, says that, ‘He who, struggling with his own weakness, presses toward faith in his moments of anxiety is already in large part victorious’. What he means is that when wrestling with our own weaknesses the tendency is to give up, to stop fighting and let temptation overcome us. The sheer fact that you are struggling shows that you are not in this position meaning that you are ‘already in large part victorious’. It is one of the ways that the Spirit is at work in your life.
Lastly, in the Christian life perserverance is paramount. Starting out the Christian life is crucial but it is equally important to finish well. This is why it is important to never give up, keep trusting God, keep struggling with your weaknesses and remember to look to the great assuring promises of God and to his Son who too struggled with sin but was without sin.
And remember God has not left us to struggle on our own. Not only do we have the Spirit of God and his Word to help us and guide us but he has also given us each other. That is why the writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 10 - “Do not give up meeting with one another as some are in the habit of doing but encourage one another”. So in your struggle, let em encourage you to read and pray and meet with other christians and TALK about how hard it is.
Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au