Cross or Comfort: Misguided Advice & Opinions
Pt. 3: How Jesus Responds to Difficult People and Circumstances
Misguided advice. We’ve all received it.
Sometimes it comes “well-intentioned” from a loved one or someone just “trying to help”. Other times, the advice comes from someone who sees the relationship as transactional and only wants to get something out of it. It’s often easier to shrug off advice from someone we don’t trust or who doesn’t have our best interest at heart. On the other hand, it can be difficult to navigate advice from a loved one who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with a direction or decision we’re considering. We might be afraid to say “no” for fear of retaliation or disappointing someone we care about. Or maybe we start to fear the unknown rather than stepping out in faith. It’s a slippery slope into people-pleasing and living with a worldly perspective when we take our eyes off of God.
Many years back, my husband and I had to navigate some advice from family. At the time, my husband and I felt called to find a local church closer to home. We had been going to a church about 35 minutes away from our home, but we recognized God was steering us in a new direction. We had strong ties with friends and some family at our present church, but the call on our hearts to leave was more urgent than the comfortability of staying.
When we shared the news with friends, we received mostly positive feedback. While many people were saddened to hear that we’d be leaving, they were encouraging and excited for our journey ahead. Many recognized what we were doing was for the good of the Kingdom of God. We wanted to share the Gospel with more people in our area and invite friends and neighbors to a local church.
Strangely enough, my husband and I were most anxious to share the news with family. Why would we already feel anxious before the conversation? That in itself was a big red flag. Past experience and the lack of support in decisions had triggered us into expecting that same lack of support and understanding with this decision.
We were afraid they wouldn’t understand why we were leaving, and unfortunately, they didn’t when we shared the news. There was lashing out, anger, manipulation, and ultimately disappointment that we were leaving “such a good church”. Family that was supposed to be closest to us (in theory), was not the most supportive of our decision, nor did they try to understand our perspective. It was an emotionally draining situation, as we were hurt but knew we had to follow through with God’s call on our lives.
When we reflected on our family’s reaction, we recognized that they weren’t looking at the bigger picture. Their advice was rooted in fear, control, and only seeing the temporary. Despite our family’s lack of support, we followed through with leaving our church and looking for a local one. Thankfully today, our family is thrilled with where we are. And even if they weren’t, we are still glad we followed through with where God called us to go. It took a full two years to find a church home (and parts of it were difficult), but it’s been a blessing beyond what we could have imagined.
Looking back on that decision, it seemed like a no-brainer from the start, but I remember at the moment it gave me a lot of emotional turmoil. God was working on something in me that needed curbed- people-pleasing.
Looking to Jesus’ example, He was often given misguided advice and opinions, sometimes from those closest to Him. In Matthew 16:21, Jesus shares with the disciples that He will have to suffer many things by the elders and religious leaders. He says he will be killed, but He will rise from the grave on the third day. As shocking as these statements were, Peter actually takes Jesus aside to reprimand him.
Clearly, Peter did not understand the bigger picture. He was close to Jesus, but he was blinded from seeing the mission of Jesus. Peter’s statement was an attempt to deter Jesus from the struggles and hardships necessary for salvation. Peter was responding to Jesus from a worldly point of view.
It was necessary for Jesus to suffer, die, and rise from the dead not only for Peter’s sake but for our own. Peter feared Jesus taking the hard road ahead, therefore, his words were misguided advice and a temptation to Jesus.
Jesus responds, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (Matt. 16:23).
While this may seem like a harsh response, it was a needed rebuke. God teaches us an important lesson through Jesus and Peter’s interaction.
We must keep our eyes on the Father.
And with that, we must question whether the advice we’re receiving is an attempt to take God out of the picture.
All too often, well-intentioned family or church members may give advice that calls us to play it safe. But God’s call on our lives is often one of boldness and courage. This is why it’s important to look at the motivation of the person giving advice. Is their advice to protect us? While protection is important so that we’re not reckless with our lives, there’s another type of advice that’s given out of fear. It prevents us from actually living our lives by following Christ. When we focus on worldly circumstances, as Peter did, we will only make decisions by what we see. By this, we replace our decision-making with fear over faith. This damages our souls, as we work against the Father instead of in step with Him.
Jesus goes on to say, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hold on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:24-26.
Our souls and eternity matter much more than this present life. When we follow Christ, we will be called to step out into uncomfortable, unknown places for the sake of the Gospel. We will have hardships and struggles that may sometimes be beyond our understanding.
The outside world is observing how we respond to trials and how we live. Who or what we are guided by matters because it reflects what we are living for. Are we living for the here and now with our decisions, or are we living for the Kingdom of God? The smallest or biggest hardships in our life can have meaning and value because God is opening up an opportunity for us to draw closer to Him and have that hardship be used for a Kingdom purpose. Many times, we can’t see the full picture of what God is doing or how a trial or transition can be used for something good, but we know that our God is good. And all things work together for our good (Rom. 8:28).
The world is hyper-focused on avoiding hardships, pain, or any type of suffering. But God’s path is one of using hardships for something bigger and more beautiful. Our stories, the pain, and suffering have a purpose. Maybe we can’t see it now, but in time, God is using your struggle for something bigger. Satan wants to use hardships against us- to break us, but God intends to use those hardships for the greater purpose of saving lives (Gen. 50:20). If we are making decisions or taking advice based on avoiding hardships at all costs, we are not truly living out the life God called us to; we are simply living like the world and silencing the message of truth.
Just as Jesus was tempted to live for the comfort of this world, we will also be tempted. The world wants to silence the saving message of Jesus by tempting us to live for comfort, power, wealth, and our own desires. The world wants to take God out of the picture so that we’re purely focused on living for the here and now. And sometimes that temptation comes from those closest to us who aren’t looking up but rather looking around.
But we were called to more.
We are the heirs of a King who is not of this world, and He desires for us to follow Him, trusting that where He calls us is greater than anything this life has to offer. True fulfillment and joy come from Christ alone.
Take up your cross and follow the King.
**This is my third article on how Jesus Responds to Difficult People and Circumstances. Check out the first two articles below:
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