The Theospeak Guy has posted The Hardest Verse in the Bible in which he discusses “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30 KJV). It got me to thinking about what believers find most difficult to deal with in Scripture. Recently, blogging memes have been all the rage as a concept is picked up and addressed by blog after blog and an idea makes its way across the intellectual landscape and is addressed from many different perspectives.
Challenge: I would like to challenge everyone who reads this post to think, pray, and write about what for them is the hardest verse in the bible, and then trackback to this post. I believe it will be both interesting and useful to see if any patterns develop within these verses. Dont worry if your verse is the same as someone elses. Just explain why it is personally a hard verse for you.
My Hardest Verse In The Bible
I have always struggled with rejection and for many reasons the fear of rejection often prevents me from appreciating the assurances I receive. Many people who grew up in situations that were in many ways not affirming, understand what I am talking about (See my post on Dads). Those who early in life had very little affirmation, often find it hard later in life to believe they are really accepted. For them rejection is a ghost that haunts their every step. Even though my father has made an effort to extend to me love and acceptance now, it has not yet succeeded in healing the underlying brokenness. I say “yet” because I still have hope for the future.
God was most gracious to me in giving me an utterly faithful and loyal wife. I don’t know what I would have done in less secure circumstances. Loyalty, above all else, is what touches that deep sense of brokenness. With that in mind my most difficult verse is:
And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Matthew 7:23
Of all the words spoken throughout all of the history of creation, those are for me the most chilling, the most frightening. “I never knew you.” Those who stood before Jesus thought they were known by him and this event was a pro forma exercise. They thought they were among the number of the elect, and yet they were not.
Those words drive deep into my heart and judge all of who I am and what I do. I well know that I cannot “work” my way into being known of him, into salvation. But while I understand that my efforts at righteousness are merely the fruit of my resurrected life, I tend to see the sin in my life as a sign of my failure, as an example of bad fruit from a bad root. Yes, I repent and yes I know there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, in whom I trust, but there is always that little (and late at night bigger) voice which says, “He doesn’t know you. You are whistling in the wind.”
It is no wonder that people flock to charismatic and Pentecostal approaches to the faith, since they at least offer the possibility of experiencing God and Christ in a way that belies him ever saying he never knew you. Your heart screams out that if I can just touch God and have him turn his face to me and smile, then all would be right with the world. For hearts broken by a sense of fundamental rejection, for whom it is so easy to see repudiation where it might not exist, this yearning for an experiential sense of acceptance is no small thing. It is so easy for those of us with this problem to allow the wiles of the devil to bring us low. We struggle against whispers seeking validation.
Yes, I have decided for Christ. Yes, I have repented and continue to repent of my sin. Yes, I cry out to him for forgiveness and acceptance, willingly laying everything at his feet by my active choice. But then sin happens, or doubt creeps in and that voice whispers, “Did you really make that commitment? Did he really accept you? Does he really know you? Where is the new man you are supposed to be? Why doesn’t God validate you in some real way?”
For some of us, living out the Christian life is a titanic struggle. Not at the intellectual level. We understand the gospel. We understand the faith. But at the deepest level of acceptance we live in an ongoing dark night of the soul. That is our test of faith, the cross we are destined to bear. Our reason says everything is right with God. Our deep brokenness leaves us unsure, with only a fragile trust to see us across the great divide. We are not as strong as we appear. We are a strange contradiction of absolute faith and teetering despair. We pray for mercy and assurance and we understand Job as well as anyone can. In the end we long to hear those most glorious of words, not the hardest, but the sweetest words in the Bible.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Matthew 25:34
May the grace of God give to you the peace that passes all understanding. May it gird up your heart and mind in the knowledge and love of Christ Jesus our Lord, so that you may have the everlasting assurance of your acceptance by God in Christ, assuring you that you are numbered among the elect and his own forever. May you at the last hear, “Come…” Amen.
Update: I didn’t do this for fun. I did it to get people to examine what they find difficult in the Bible and hopefully gather those thoughts here. I wanted to see if there were any patterns and maybe get a series of postings or a book out of this. So far, though over a hundred people have read this post I have only gotten one inquiry. I would like to suggest that if you do write a post on this subject that you tag two other people to write one also. The only requirement would be for them to either trackback to this post or leave a comment or send an email with the URL to their response. Grace and peace. I am starting by tagging two people.
Though I enjoy fun as much as anyone, I have tended to shy away from memes lately. This, however, looks worthy of time. I will prayerfully consider doing this one. However, I don’t have trackback capability. Is it possible to email a url to you? Feel free to email me and let me know. Thank you. Pg
I’m going to have to mull (and pray) this one over for a bit. There’s a lot I don’t understand or find difficult in the Word…and this is one of ‘my’ verses, too! lol 🙂
I like your meme. Just before I found your site, I wrote this:
Because I wrote it first, then found your site, I did not quite answer your question. But it has been a hard verse for me.
Oh, because I am also a “newbie” blogger, I do not know how to backtrack yet, nor I am yet close enough to anyone to pass it on.
Rule #1 of reading a Biblical scripture is to not take a verse out of context. This removes all meaning from what the writer was trying to say (or imply). To many times have people, esp. Christians, who have taken passages out of context been burned or grossly misinterpretated it (esp. the Catholics).
Thus surrounding paragraph is as follows:
While I agree with your Rule #1 I am not sure what you are trying to say in this context. Could you be more explicit?
That part I understand but I am still having difficulty understanding your point in relation to the post. Sorry if I am being thick-headed here.
The verse in question is John the Baptist stating that his influence must wane because of the coming of Christ. Like the groomsman who waits upon the bridegroom, the are secondary and are of lesser importance. He even states it in John 1:30
So John is removing himself from the picture. Remember how he told his followers to leave him and follow Jesus??
This is a great meme. I’ll trackback to this post when I do a blog round-up, hopefully sometime tomorrow.
Who doesn’t want to fit in? Who wants people to think they are weird? The conundrum is that this is often exactly what Jesus is calling us to do. The struggle I find in my life is in laying down everything in order to follow Him. When I try to grasp this concept and to put into motion in practical terms, I am often confronted with Luke 9:26. “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, I will be ashamed of him.” What is “being ashamed”? Is it holding on to my thoughts, desires, identity? Is it living as a “stealth Christian”? When I recoil from a radical identification with Christ, is He recoiling from me? Becoming one with Him is a noble goal, but in my humanity with my fits and starts and uneven progress and tortured morality and more than a little of the Pharisee, I can only remember that “God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”
I am grateful that when I act “ashamed”, His mercy endures to all generations, and is willing to set me on my feet again and to help me along the journey.
There is a desire in all of us to “fit in” which for me means be part of the family of God. While that pure motive was lost at Eden, it still drives us at a fundamental level, even while it is distorted by sin and Satan to numerous substitutes.
Still at its best it is relationship, finding our place in the scheme of things, and being true to who we are, or at least who we are called to be.
Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you again in the future.
I find this web site really encouraging. At the moment I am reading the “bible in a year” (and like William, I had/ have a lot of problems with rejection, pain, fear etc. and couldn’t stomach reading certain parts of the bible, used to read mainly psalms, proverbs and NT, but get into terrible doubts and fear about whether God was at all pleased with me). I have a lot of Qs and don’t like the glib answers some Christians give, who seem to have it all sorted. It is really good to find some other “deep thinkers”!
I find that verse (Matt 7,23) difficult too (I used to be worried about whether I was a goat, not a sheep – Matt 25, but have now understood that this refers to the time after the tribulation period). But, off the top of my head I would say that you needn’t worry, as God sees your heart and your intention. You obviously do want a personal relationship with him, and want to do his will for your individual life. I think this scripture refers to people who don’t ask for personal guidance, but follow rules and religion, who don’t spend time with Jesus alone to hear him for themselves (bit like the Mary and Martha analogy?). It can’t be about doing stuff for God I think, because of too many people who are saved out of grace alone and many verses regarding this truth (for example the criminal on the cross next to Jesus – he certainly hadn’t done much of God’s will till then, but only believed from then on).
I just found a really good explanation on http://www.faithalone.org/news/y1988/88dec3.html.
My worst verse at the moment is where Paul says that we are not to fear man who can only kill the body, but not the spirit. Istead we are to fear God who can kill both (I can’t find it at the moment). I don’t agree with some people who say “I’m more afraid of God than people, that’s why I do what he tells me to” – this kind of terror (fear motivation) doesn’t enable me to do anything for God, I just give up trying then – resignation, maybe a learnt pattern from early on.
By the way, Rom 9,22 seems cruel too – some people were made for destruction? Eternal? Is this what it means?
Renate. No easy answers. I was once told by someone who discipled early in my Christian life the real test of my faith would not be in how I dealt with God’s love, but how I dealt with God’s judgment and sovereign choices. Would I hold God’s sovereign choices against him?
I am always reminded of the line from a popular Christian song from the 70’s, “But Jesus, why me?” According to his dialog with Job, God does not explain himself very often. He expects us to bend our knees and accept his choices “even if he slays me”. Tough stuff.
Grace and peace on your journey.
Thanks William, good answers, I will think about it. I do struggle with not understanding God in quite a few things, be that in my own life, the bible or the lives of others. When things seem inexplicable and confusing, or seem to have no reason other than coincidence, I feel like he has left me and doesn’t really care too much about the details. But this morning I read Ex 25 – about all the details of the altar. I thought: He must care about us, if he even cares about numbers and measurements of bits of material. Of course he promises never to leave or forsake me and be with me (Ps 27, 10 and Ps 91, 4 for example), but my heart is discouraged.
I can recommend the book “waking the dead” by John Eldredge on this issue, it is about guarding and letting God heal the heart, not about physically dead. David Seamands has written some great books too (“healing painful emotions”, very good – it explains how our theology gets lopsided and warped through traumatic experiences). Often I expect the worst, when things turn out to be fine! So that obviously doesn’t come from God.
So, the conclusion must be that my mind and heart are just too small to understand, that is why I have to trust – why couldn’t God help me understand instead, or give me a bigger brain?! There’s a good joke on this: someone hanging from a cliff. God says: “it’s ok, just let go!”. Man shouts: “is there any other God up there?”
This demand of TRUSTING the fog, even in the cruelest circumstances is REALLY TOUGH though – it sometimes makes me want to scream and run away (like Jonah, who I can identify with!), and I do now and again. But Thank God for his Grace and Mercy in very practical ways, so that I can come back and hope to grow in this respect. Sometimes just when I think I really can’t take anymore, he encourages me and gives me strength to go on. He does work in mysterious ways, or “his ways are higher than ours” and Ps 139, 17-18. Regards and blessings to you all!
I have just recently started studying the bible. My prayer before opening the bible is for understanding and gain answers to the many problems I face everyday. I just recently learned the medidation on scriptures to help in the constant temptations I face everyday. But one scripture always stands out at all times, it is in my mind at all times. I say it over and over again, and I have come to have complete faith in it “in him all things are possible” this gets me through everytime when I’m faced with something I alone cannot change or have no control of (any situation) I give it all to GOD. When I submit all my problems to GOD…it’s amazing how things just start to pull together. I have been praying for my family, children and grandchildren. My family have been torn apart by a silent evil force in our family. I believe the devil comes in all forms. My family has been torn apart since the loss of our father 7 months ago. My family has split into two. One side wants to keep the teachings and beliefs of what my father taught us and one side just wants to do away with them. This is were the conflict is. But I believe that GOD will make things right for all concerned. Because GOD see’s and hear everythings that is happening. I believe in this scripture “in him all things are possible” I have faith that GOD will make everything right for everyone and be the loving family that my father left behind.
You want my comment but I can’t tell who you are…How clever! The entire Bible is a mystery and a the hardest part to swallow is it’s truth! I grew up also with rejection issues and they only grew worse thru out the years and still so…So after trying so hard to please God just having faith that He is, I have determined that I will never please Him and that He doesn’t intend on pleasing me either. So I sit and wait for my undisguised destination, not the hell I already reside in but my fate, if you will. You can say people will let you down but my life takes that saying toi a whole new level! Peace if you can find it! A girl who had gone mad…
I believe you can tell all you need to know from two things:
1. I have links to pages about myself, including my personal website.
2. My writing reveals my soul better than anything.
We all search for the peace of Christ and we all, if we pursue God, have gone a little mad, just a little.
May God be gracious to your every need and may the love of Christ fill your soul with joy unspeakable, giving you a glimpse of the Glory to come.
Grace and peace Piper, grace and peace.