John 17:15 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”
Often enough, conditions in the world, in life, make us want just to escape. That’s natural, but it’s seldom God’s best for us. We can’t handle constant battle, and so need occasional retreats, but we can’t make escapism a way of life and have any real success at life itself. Growth and maturity come through struggle. A famous example is that of “helping” a butterfly get out of its cocoon. The cocoon is easily demolished by human intervention, but the insect that emerges can’t fly, and can hardly be called a butterfly, with completely crumpled wings. It needs the exertion of getting out of the cocoon on its own to pump blood into its wings and make them straighten out so that when they dry fully they will be usable. We see this all the time in raising children. Children who always have everything done for them, who always get the “easy way out,” never grow and mature to be genuinely independent human beings, and are of little use to themselves or to anyone else. This is a truth we don’t like to hear! People today want everything the easy way. The Internet has ads for pills to “melt belly fat while you sleep.” Even if they worked you wouldn’t be healthy, because you’d have no muscle tone. The flip side of that, and another major factor in Jesus’ prayer, is that you can’t defeat the enemy if you aren’t present at the battle. We are told that “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8) We are called to join Him in His ministry, and we can’t destroy stuff we don’t confront. Jesus wants us protected, but He doesn’t want us to leave the battlefield. Suicide is the ultimate cop-out, because it says that whatever personal angst we might be going through is more important than what we might accomplish by trusting God through to the end. In many places and using many different expressions the Bible assures us that sticking it out always brings the best reward.
I recognize a strong conflict-avoidance tendency in myself, so I am certainly talking to myself here. At the same time, as a pastor I am constantly dealing with people who struggle in this area. Some of them look at me and don’t recognize how much I’ve had to “grin and bear it,” so they resent it when I tell them the truth about their own situations. Frankly, sometimes I do have to walk away from them for a while, physically speaking, but I am never to fail to pray for them. I am to speak the truth in love always, challenging them to recognize God’s abundant, perfect provision so that they may do what they are called on to do to take hold of that provision. Life on this earth isn’t easy, but if we choose faithful dependence on Christ we will enjoy His victory. (John 16:33)
Father, this is a very timely Word. You know those who came to mind as I wrote, and You know the escape reaction I feel with all the mess about the upcoming election. Help me not flee any of it, but rather rest secure in Christ in the middle of it all. May I not draw back from any effort You want me to make, and may I never forget that You will supply whatever it takes to do whatever You have for me to do. Thank You. Praise God!