Our Entitled Culture
I live in a world of “entitlement”. I see it in myself everyday. I saw it in myself several months ago as I went through the security line at the airport on my way to a conference in Denver. They were re-calibrating the security check and decided to do that right before I went through. What was already an incredibly short security line, now created an increased 3 minute wait for my impatient self. I stood there completely annoyed “just let me through” attitude written all over my face. How dare they make me wait? No, I didn’t say that or think that exactly but my actions declared that. And there it is “entitlement”. I shouldn’t have to wait.
Webster defines entitlement as:
-the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something
– the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)
Now, I’m fairly confident I’m not the only one who sees this entitlement creeping up in the must mundane of places. Have you ever been exasperated at waiting in a long line… that person at the checkout that has a million coupons (that’s how it feels anyways) and is paying with $1 dollar bills and brings up the one item in the midst of her 100 that doesn’t have a price tag on and we think “how dare she? I have places to be, how did I get stuck in this line.” I see this attitude carrying over into the most ordinary and significant areas of my life.
I saw it as I waited for God to bring a man into my life and thought countless times “God, you better not make me be single for the rest of my life.” And I saw it as I stepped into my first significant experience of suffering three years ago as we found out our first born daughter would not live. I remember that March, finding out our daughters diagnosis, just 20 weeks pregnant and thinking among many other thoughts “God, we’ve been faithful to you, we waited for each other, we kept ourselves pure…” and without adding to that statement in my heart I knew I was saying “You owe us a healthy child.” Really? Does God really owe us anything?
The American Christian Response to Suffering
I have been thinking a lot about the American Christian response to suffering as I’ve responded to losing our firstborn daughter and then losing our second daughter. I have been saddened by my own lack of quickness to trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God. And I’ve been saddened by how many Christians have told me that I have so much more courage than them, that they wouldn’t respond the same way. And I have been saddened because many have shared that they have never seen this kind of faith before. Sad because it seems our response to walk in faith and trust in the Lord in the midst of all of our questions is the exception not the rule and that too few of us are telling the story of God’s abundant faithfulness and goodness in our lives.
I often wonder if this blog, which has been read by more people then I could have ever imagined (of which I am truly grateful for those who have journeyed with us), would have the same response if you put it in the middle of countries where Christians and suffering go together. Can I be honest with you? I would just be one of thousands of other stories of faith in the midst of suffering that this blog would have no place, it would not tell an uncommon story but rather would tell a story that everyone else was telling… Our God is faithful no matter what we face and we know that following Him has a cost and He is worth every price we have to pay.
I do not want to negate the impact of what God has done through our journey with Sophie and now Dasah in the lives of many, I have been amazed, in awe and overwhelmed at how far their little lives have reached and how God has allowed our story to testify to many of His goodness. I do not want to compare our suffering, for whatever our suffering is, is our suffering. But I do find that hearing of what other Christians have to endure in other parts of the country and world where I too respond with a “I could never have that strength…” type of attitude gives me perspective, humility and an ever deepening desire to know God more. I want my response to stories of great faith to instead be; “So, this is what the God I serve can do, so this is His faithfulness, joy and strength at work, truly I can trust Him.“
And we must tell the stories of God’s faithfulness in the joy and the heartache of our lives NOT so that others can see our “great” faith, but so that they can see the GREAT OBJECT of our faith. My hope is that mine and your response would be less about the great strength we see in the believer but the great strength we see in OUR GOD.
Suffering is not a normal part of Christianity in America, but it is a normal part of Christianity in the early church and in many other countries today. We are told over and over to expect suffering. But, herein lies the problem. We don’t expect it in our culture. Everyday we are inundated with messages of how to live our lives more easily, more comfortably, how to get what we want, and be whatever we want to be.
We live under this false pretense that God somehow owes us a good life, that how we live will determine what we get or don’t get from Him. We live entitled lives, often without even realizing it. We can see it in how we shop, the jobs we’re willing to take or not take, the types of homes we live in, our response when things don’t go the way we want them to (little or big). None of these are bad things in and of themselves, but when we start to demand our rights to be the “haves” and not the “have nots”, living entitled to things that are simply our privilege but somehow have become our rights, we slide down a slippery slope that does not enable us to handle the curve balls life throws at us. And that sense of entitlement sidelines and takes out many Christians in America because we can’t handle the suffering that comes our way. Instead of pressing into the Lord, too many of us step away from Him.
We have come to define God’s goodness by our circumstances instead of letting God’s goodness define our circumstances. Can I tell you… on the other side of loss in the midst of the most intense grief I have ever known, God is still good. I still believe it. I still experience it. No, I don’t understand the bigger picture in the midst of the pain and it is not a blind resolve to simply throw up my hands and say “I trust you though none of this makes sense”, which would be okay to do. But here’s what I know about the Lord… HE makes sense to me.
A Different Way to Live
I want to say “Let’s just stop it.” Let’s stop living entitled lives, let’s stop expecting God to show up in ways He never promised and start living in light of the ways He did promise. That losing our life, laying down our rights is actually where life is found. But that is easier said then done. Perhaps “the stopping of it” begins when we press in and acknowledge how we live entitled. It begins when we are not afraid to bring our broken selves to the cross and confess the ways we demand our rights to our Creator. And it begins when we begin to genuinely ask Him to change our hearts as only He can do.
And why would we press in to identify and lay down our entitled ways?
Because living entitled will take us out of the race, will never deepen our faith and will never draw us into a deep and rich intimacy with the Lord. And that intimacy with the Lord is cultivated and rooted deeper not just through the joys of this life, but the pain as well. I could never have imagined what the past 3 years would’ve held for us. I had prayed we would have another baby after losing our first. And often my entitled self said “God, don’t make us go through another loss, we went through one and now it’s our turn to bring home a baby”. And then we lost another baby, and we came home with empty arms yet again. And we were crushed and realizing in far deeper ways, though much more wrestling, that our lives are not our own. He is in charge of my life and I trust Him (most days). Then we laid down our dreams for a biological child, though there is no reason to believe another would have the same condition, and God formed in our hearts a desire to adopt. And in His great sovereignty He brought a little boy into our lives, Jaden. And my arms still feel both empty for Sophie and Dasah, but full with Jaden. God’s ways can be so beautifully brutal.
The Model of Christ
But there was no life that has pictured this beautiful brutality then that of Jesus. He laid down His rights, He became a servant, a yielder of rights not a demander of rights for our sake. If there was anyone who had the “right” to get all bent out of shape at the lot He was given it was Him. When Jesus fervently prayed “Take this cup” as He was about to enter the greatest suffering imaginable, taking on the sin OF THE WORLD. Nailed to a cross. He didn’t pause and say “Wait, you’re not going to take it God… I literally kept the whole law. I mean, all of it. Perfection.” No, after praying 3 times for God to take this cup He said after each time “not My will but Thine be done.” Not my will. Not my rights. I lay it down to give life to others, to give glory to the One who is worthy of praise.
If that is how He lived, isn’t that the model that we should follow as His people? What would our country look like if those who follow Jesus stopped living entitled? Would we love more? Serve more? Give more? Open our homes more? Rescue more broken lives just like ours, both physically and spiritually? Trust Him more? Stand up for Christ more, not caring about our reputation? Radiate His love and glory more that others would be drawn to Him?
Will it cost me? My very life.
Will it be painful? At times.
Will it make sense? Not always.
Will it result in joy? Like you’ve never known.
And this my friend, is how we discover the life we were made for and display the Astounding Glory of God to a watching world.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24,25