Acts 16:11-15 (Paul reaches Philippi, converts Lydia)
Psalm 149:1-6, 9 (The Lord takes delight in his people)
John 15:26 - 16:4 ("The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God")
I beg your pardon...
I never promised you a rose garden...
Well, not here, anyway.
Accepting the creation story in Genesis, humanity was given a garden, and in the evolution of man, somehow managed to give it away. When God discovers Adam and Eve hiding in their shame, the stage is set for the rest of the intrigue and unrest that permeates the Bible.
Not so long ago I wrote in my personal journal (upon a suggestion and after some discernment) that one of the undercurrents running throughout the Bible is the theme of dissatisfaction. Adam and Eve are suddenly unsatisfied with what God has given them when the serpent tempts them, saying that they would become gods themselves. The Israelites led by Moses are constantly complaining during their sojourn in the desert. Later, they want a king. And when a True King shows up in the person of Jesus, they're not satisfied with him.
Then there's Jesus himself. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus is portrayed consistently bringing up his disciples' lack of faith. In various places in the Gospels he challenges the perceived ideal. He says he's come not to unite, but to divide. And here, as he prepares to consummate the mission for which he came, he reminds his disciples that when they suffer similar trials and fates in the years to come: "Well, I told you so!"
They said this path that leads to heaven
Will not be the easy way...
And it's not. There are days when the road is as much under construction and as seemingly intraversable as it will be getting across the Fox River this summer from my part of suburbia. It's inconvenient, time consuming, and unstimulating. It draws us away from the capacity we have for love. Maybe that's part of why so many just give up.
Along the spiritual path, some of the most frustrating things come about that have all the appearances of bearing God's approval. What's worse is when these work for some and not for others. Could this, though, be an indicator of the depth of personal relationship God wants to have with us? I can't be sure, but I hope so. Temptations can be rejected.
True, Jesus did not promise us a rose garden. He said we'd always have to deal with the poor and marginalized. He wondered if he would find any faith on earth when he returned. And he said we'd have to bear up our crosses and challenges to follow him. But he also promised eternal life. He promised his presence would remain long after his physical body was gone. And he promised an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth whose work would not end until the time appointed by God.
So far, there's nothing to suggest that any of Jesus' promises hasn't been kept.