Jane (not her real name) had just lost her job. Jane is a Christian, as are many if not most of her friends. And as they rallied around her on Facebook, seeking to encourage her, a recurring theme emerged in their comments: “You lost that job, but the Lord has something better for you.” By which they meant not eternal life with Him (though, yes, that too), but a better life in this world — a better job, a better means of support, a better way to spend her days.
They were trying to be helpful. But they were making a mistake that a lot of people make. They were confusing the promises God has made with the promises He hasn’t made.
To be sure, maybe Jane will get what her friends predicted. But maybe she won’t. Like anyone else, Christians can lose their jobs and never find good jobs again, if they find any at all. They can lose their health, their homes, their loved ones. They can face utter devastation of every sort. Does anyone think there were no Christians in the Philippines when the typhoons hit? Or in Illinois last weekend when the tornadoes came through — in one case, ravaging a town less than 30 miles from where I live?
Obvious though all this should be, American Christians tend to forget it because so many have had it so easy for so long. Many mix their faith with the national cult of positive thinking. The result is a hybrid religion that’s less Christianity than complacency, watering down the actual Christian faith and adding a large dose of everything-will-work-out-OK optimism. God wants you to have it all in this life, so you will: It’s just a matter of time.
If you think this way, you’re building a faith on a false foundation — and if you encourage others to think this way, you’re urging them to do the same. Far from fostering a faith that will last, you’re promoting one that will crumble under pressure. What will they do if the hard times come and last a very long time without getting better? If the good job never comes, or is lost and never comes back? If they get well into their 30s and 40s and the spouse and children they’d hoped and prayed for never come along?
If I knew Jane (I don’t, though a friend of mine does), I’d tell her that, honestly, I don’t know whether God has a better job for her, or even one as good. He might, and she should be open to that possibility, but He might not. He has not made any promises about that in His Word. But I’d also remind her of the promises He has made. That He loves her so much that He took on her sins and everyone else’s, suffering agony beyond our ability to imagine so that she and His other children might have eternal life with Him. That He is there in all her trials and ordeals, sustaining her spirit and calling her to lean upon Him, for when she is weak, then she is strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). That He has tended to her needs of body and soul so far, and He has not abandoned her now. That whether her future is everything she’d hoped for or nothing like what she’d hoped for, the Lord can grant her contentment and that she can do all things that He would have her do through Him Who strengthens her (Philippians 4:11-13). That whatever she lacks in this world, she will find complete and blessed satisfaction in the new creation.
Faith in the God who does that is faith that will not crumble in the tough times. It’s the only kind of faith worth having.