The Challenges of Following Jesus

Dec 20, 2021


As we approach the day we celebrate Jesus’s birth, all of us who would follow Jesus might well acknowledge our very human nature:

1) the walls we’ve built to protect us that also keep God at some distance,

2) our own egocentricity that won’t allow us to trust Him completely, and

3) the habits of thought that stop us from becoming the person we were created to be.

I am sure that these issues in the spiritual life are different for each individual and, yet, there are some human characteristics—as God created us—that we share. The real challenge of a faithful life is to tear down these walls within us—with God’s help—so that He can heal us and transform us into the person He created each of us to be.


One of the first areas of resistance that arises in a person drawn to faith in Jesus is often in how God answers our prayers. We usually pray for a specific outcome for ourselves or for a loved one. Often we have a timetable in mind for His answer as well. But God may not answer right away, and His answer may not even come close to what we requested. In fact, it may feel like He doesn’t answer at all. How can we come to trust God when He doesn’t do what we ask? After all, Jesus told us to ask for what we wanted:

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).


Over time we can begin to see that God’s answers to our prayers may have nothing to do with what we want, but they always are about what He wants for us, our greatest good. I have come to see that our lives on earth constitute a school for us, if we are willing to learn from God, that would teach us how to function at the highest human level—able to love, to forgive, to have mercy and to do justice in this world. Every single thing that happens to us in this lifetime is meant to be a step towards that goal. And so it is with how God answers our prayers—the answers are the next thing we need to know in this journey; the sooner we come to accept what He has given us, the sooner we will take that next step.


A fourth area of resistance is our fear: we need to learn to live in God’s timing and design for our lives without resistance. We can learn to live in peace at all times, no matter what is going on in our lives, when we turn our lives and our agendas over to God. When my husband had a recurrence of cancer just three months after being declared cancer-free, I was terrified. At three o’clock in the afternoon each day, I was anxious to crawl into bed and forget about this horror in my life. What the Holy Spirit said to me then was this: “If you can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well then….” That’s all that I heard. I had practiced listening to this “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12) in the small things of life, so that I was able to entertain this new idea.


As soon as the idea took hold in me, I could see that there were literally many possible outcomes for Hank. Then I was able to embrace this concept and to give up my fear. Just a few days later I was given a gift of faith that had me feeling like I was standing on the rock, a faith so vital and strong that I was able to help Hank, our friends and our children deal with what was happening. I never became fearful of his death again. Two and a half months later he died and I dropped into the grief. And then God gave me a new life that I had never even dreamed of. Not only did I finish my spiritual direction training, but I became a writer as well. And everything I’ve written has to do with how we, you and I, are to live this life in Christ.


Our impatience is another challenging area to let go of. I’ve blamed my parents and their insistence on arriving a little early or at least on time for every event in our lives for my impatience. But I am beginning to see that I am totally at fault, because I want what I want and I want it now! I do experience impatience, most often while driving, but the issue for me is more about giving up my agenda, so that I can see God’s agenda clearly in this moment and the next and the next. Then my way of doing things is no longer primary.


The major lesson of our journey with Jesus is to surrender all of who we are, all our agendas, all of our heart, soul, mind and strength to God. And as we learn to surrender, we can embrace all that comes into our lives without question, seeking only to find the truth in the current situation that would define our lives right now. We can see the effect of Covid-19 in our lives over the last two years. Being sequestered at home, gaining so much time in our days without commuting and shopping, spending time working at home, but also more time with our families, giving up the running around, the commuting, and the craziness of our lives before Covid came along—we could see the truth of how we were living. And so many folks are choosing new careers, demanding a hiring bonus where there was none before and more pay, choosing training for another job over bottom-of-the-rung careers. Whether they are faithful to God or not, the virus has changed a lot of people in our nation.


For those of us who journey with Jesus, the virus has deepened our journey. It has called us to love, to treat our fellow Americans, all of them with love and embrace. It has highlighted all the ills in our country—the racism, the health care system that doesn’t serve everyone, what fulfills us or doesn’t, and more. And it is God who has held us and brought us peace in the midst of chaos and change. That peace is the most important thing that we will be gifted with, for it makes everything bearable. Essentially, peace in our hearts and minds means that we are held and loved and forgiven—and that we are aware of these great gifts from God.


In the end it is our gratitude for all that we are given that seals our fate with God, trusting Him to deliver on His promises to us. There’s gratitude for our families and the friends who accompany us throughout our lives, for our work and purpose, for the talents and interests that we were given, for the beautiful world we live in, and on and on. What a joy this journey with Jesus is! How fulfilling are our lives as God designed them! How loving we can be as He heals and transforms us! Thanks be to God!



Two Announcements

  1. I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at and I will send it to you, free of charge.
  2. My latest book, Called to Help the Poor and Needy, is now in bookstores and on line. It’s about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need.


Questions to ponder over the week: What do I find most challenging about following Jesus? What is easiest for me? How can I get beyond these difficulties? What do I need to pray for?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who follow Jesus, who obey Him easily along the way. May we show our love for Jesus Christ and God in everything that we do.


See more blog posts and offerings at


Check out my other website, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. 12.20.21’s is entitled “Sacred Fire.” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.


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