There are a variety of “occupational hazards” that come with being in ministry. For example, I always know I will get asked to pray at just about every event I attend. A more awkward hazard is running into people who have stopped attending my church. It is almost always obvious that former attendees are embarrassed to encounter me. Sometimes they pretend not to see me, other times they give an excuse to quickly move on. When they do share about leaving church, one of the top reasons they give is that life got too hard. Sometimes they started thinking that following God wasn’t worth it, as numerous bad things kept happening in their lives. Other times they felt they faced a choice between the mountain of other commitments in their life and God, and decided in favor of their other commitments. When life gets hard there is almost always a temptation to retreat from God.
Maybe you’ve never stopped attending worship because life got hard, but there is a high likelihood that difficulties in your life have impeded your relationship with God in some way. When things are not going well we can get frustrated with God, wondering where He is. We may want to retreat from serving Him, taking time off from our small group, serving in leadership, or teaching Sunday School. When life gets particularly thorny most of us are prone to retreat from God in one way or another.
1 Peter was written during a time when the Church was being persecuted mercilessly by the Romans. People were being jailed and executed left and right for their Christian faith. In such an atmosphere it would seem only natural for people to want to retreat from God. Yet, look at 1 Peter 1:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:3-7
When life gets difficult, and it will, remember two things from this scripture. First, Jesus is our living hope. He died not only for our future, but to bless us with love and hope each and every day. Instead of retreating from Him, we need to live in this hope. Second, we need to remember that Jesus has given us a perfect and guaranteed inheritance: eternal life in a perfect heaven with God. When we retreat from God we are retreating from a perfect and guaranteed inheritance. In our weakest of moments we need to be focused on that inheritance, not running from it.