Following is hard. Period. I don’t know about you, but it goes against my nature to follow. I want to rebel and go my own way. I long to be “unique” or “different” so sometimes I will choose to chart my own course, even when I don’t have to. I am most definitely a work in progress!
Almost daily, I think about how difficult it is for me to follow God perfectly. Some of the commands to love God and love people are so daunting to me, especially when I’m annoyed by people a great majority of the time. I think about how selfish I can be and how much of my life is centered around my own wants and desires. Following God into places of humility and servanthood is difficult and often uncomfortable. I often wonder how in the world I can possibly follow God’s commands to his children. Have you ever wondered that too?
Thankfully, we have Jesus who not only took our place and paid for our many, many sins, he also provided us a perfect example of how we are to live our lives.
Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus, who was a real human man, followed God perfectly? Does that just blow your mind? Every thought, word, and action from Jesus was perfectly in line with the Father. He didn’t speak out of turn, or do something wrong; even his intentions were spot-on all the time. Even when he was hungry, he didn’t get hangry. When he was fatigued, he didn’t become frustrated (and blow up at people). Even when he knew betrayals were coming his way, he didn’t treat his betrayers differently, he still perfectly loved them when they didn’t deserve it.
“So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” John 8:28 (NIV)
Jesus perfectly reflected God while he was here on earth. He was the sublime representation of the character of God. He provided an example of followership to us, but doesn’t lord it over us—thankfully, God isn’t prideful.
I tend to try and put all of my eggs in the “performance” basket. I think if I can just achieve or do enough then I will be liked, accepted, respected, etc. So when I read the stories of Jesus where he perfectly loved others and perfectly followed God, I can begin to beat myself up. I can easily shame myself for not being ______________ enough. I can start to condemn myself for not being as good as Jesus.
But that’s not the point of Jesus’s life being recorded in the Bible. He didn’t come to point fingers at us, hoping that we’ll guilt-trip ourselves into right behavior, he came to display the loving and perfect character of our God. His words and actions are infused with grace and mercy because that’s who he is. Jesus is constantly loving even when we are absolutely unlovable. And he is understanding and compassionate when we try to veer off course and go our own way.
The truth is that we will never be able to follow God completely or perfectly, but we can follow him a little better today than we did yesterday. And we can follow better tomorrow than we did today. We don’t have to do this by willpower, but by growing our faith and deepening our relationship with the Lord daily.
I’m so grateful that even amidst confusion and my own pride, I can know that God’s character is loving and kind. Even when I don’t want to follow, I can choose to submit and follow the Father, certain that his ways are so much better than my own. And I’m grateful for the example of Jesus who shows us how to live this God-following life.
Following isn’t easy (I’m not sure that it will ever become easy), but I’m finding that the difficulty is softened a bit when I understand who God is and who I am.
Do you ever struggle to follow God?
Do you find Jesus’s example of how to live encouraging?