Everyone has different expectations from Christianity, but one thing we should not expect is a problem-free life.
It just isn't realistic, and you won't find one verse in the Bible to support that idea. Jesus is blunt when he tells his followers:
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV)
Trouble! Now there's an understatement. If you're a Christian and you haven't been ridiculed, discriminated against, insulted or mistreated, you're doing something wrong. Our trouble also includes accidents, illness, job layoffs, broken relationships, financial setbacks, family strife, the deaths of loved ones, and every kind of nastiness that unbelievers suffer as well.
What gives? If God loves us, why doesn't he take better care of us? Why doesn't he make Christians immune from all the pains of life?
Only God knows the answer to that, but we can find our solution in the last part of Jesus' statement: "I have overcome the world."
The Major Cause of Trouble
Many of the world's problems come from Satan, that Father of Lies and Dealer in Destruction. In the past couple decades, it's become fashionable to treat that fallen angel like a mythological character, implying that we are too sophisticated now to believe in such nonsense.
But Jesus never spoke of Satan as a symbol. Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert. He constantly warned his disciples to beware of Satan's traps. As God, Jesus is the supreme realist, and he recognized the existence of Satan.
Using us to cause our own problems is Satan's oldest ploy. Eve was the first person to fall for it and the rest of us have been doing it ever since. Self-destruction has to start somewhere, and Satan is often the small voice that assures us our dangerous acts are all right.
There's no doubt: Sin can be enjoyable. Satan is doing everything he can to make sin socially acceptable in our world. But Jesus said, "I have overcome the world." What did he mean?
Exchanging His Power for Our Own
Sooner or later, every Christian realizes that their own power is pretty puny. As hard as we try to be good all the time, we just can't make it. But the good news is that if we allow him, Jesus will live the Christian life through us. That means his power to overcome sin and the problems of this world is ours for the asking.
No matter whether our problems are caused by ourselves (sin), others (crime, cruelty, selfishness) or circumstances (illness, traffic accidents, job loss, fire, disaster), Jesus is always where we turn. Because Christ has overcome the world, we can overcome it through his strength, not our own. He is the answer to the problem-filled life.
That doesn't mean our problems will end as soon as we surrender control to him. It does mean, however, that our unbeatable ally will bring us through everything that happens to us: "A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all ..." (Psalm 34:19 NIV)
He doesn't spare us from them all, he doesn't shield us from them all, but he does deliver us. We may come out the other side with scars and losses, but we will come out the other side. Even if our suffering results in death, we will be delivered into the hands of God.
Confidence During Our Problems
Each new problem calls for renewed trust, but if we think back on how God has delivered us in the past, we see that unmistakable pattern of delivery in our lives. Knowing God is on our side and supporting us through our troubles can give us a sense of peace and confidence.
Once we understand that trouble is normal and to be expected in this life, it will not catch us off-guard as much when it comes. We don't have to like it, we certainly can't enjoy it, but we can always count on God's help to get us through it.
A problem-free life is a myth here on earth but a reality in heaven. Realistic Christians see that. We don't view heaven as pie-in-the-sky but rather our reward for trusting Jesus Christ as our Savior. It's a place where all will be made right, because the God of Righteousness lives there.
Until we reach that place, we can take heart, as Jesus commanded us. He has overcome the world, and as his followers, his victory is also ours.
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.