Rough edges — most folks don’t like them. There is something terribly annoying about these irregular surfaces that irritate, scratch, snag, and cut. Our determination to smooth rough edges and surfaces has spawned all sorts of products to mitigate and eliminate these pesky annoyances. If we can’t smooth them out, then we look for ways to avoid them. That makes sense.
Life is full of rough edges like troubles, persecution, and suffering.
We can now add a pandemic to that list and all of the corresponding hardships of social distancing, job losses and furloughs, as well as fears and anxieties about the future.
Our tendency is to fear that rough edges may be a sign of God’s disfavor and that we must, at all costs, smooth out these troublesome annoyances. But, could it be that by so doing we are diminishing something at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. After all, He Himself said that in this world we would have tribulation and that the world would hate, exclude, and revile us.
Years ago, one of our national partners was arrested and imprisoned in South Asia on the charge of spreading Christianity. My immediate impulse was to smooth out this rough edge. I emailed an ex-pat friend in the country and asked him to look into the matter. I told him that we stood ready to provide whatever funds were necessary to get our friend out of jail.
A couple of days later I received a reply. My ex-pat friend had indeed visited our imprisoned partner and told him that we stood ready to arrange for his freedom. But, our friend refused our help. He explained that he understood his imprisonment to be a part of God’s divine plan for his life. “I have a captive audience,” he added, “and have already led some to faith in Christ.” He asked that we just leave the matter alone.
Like the Apostle Paul, my friend’s imprisonment had turned out “for the greater progress of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12-14).
I had mistakenly thought that his personal safety was of paramount importance.
My friend believed that the purposes of God were of greater importance than his own welfare. He was already accustomed to living with rough edges and remained obedient to God in spite of any fears he might have had.
We can certainly learn a thing or two from those who understand that we cannot always smooth out or avoid life’s rough edges. We tend to pray for what’s best for us and our families and our nation and assume that what’s best will have few or no rough edges.
Those who live in hard places understand how God uses rough edges to advance His purposes. My friend obeyed God in spite of the rough edges. Our tendency is to shy away from obedience unless God eliminates the rough edges.
Rough edges — Jesus said that we would have them. But, He also promised that we would never have to deal with them alone. Following Christ is not about eliminating the rough edges but rather about choosing to obey Him in spite of them.
The greatest thing we can give Satan is our fear. He can easily turn our fears into a weapon to bludgeon our faith. The greatest thing Satan fears is our obedience to Christ in spite of life’s rough edges.
So, the next time your faith gets snagged on a rough edge, don’t despair. Instead, expect God to use that irritant to deepen your faith and to advance His purposes.