“So many roads. So many detours. So many choices. So many mistakes,” says the actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

Yes, and on the spiritual journey, there are four roads, mistakes, and detours to avoid. But what are they? They are the same detours Jesus sought to avoid, even as I suspect all other spiritual masters sought to avoid…indeed every spiritual seeker.

The roads or detours Jesus sought to avoid are described in Matthew 4. I’ll describe the four roads he avoided in four different posts.

The first road to avoid is the proverbial, but mythical, “Easy Street.”

Who seeks a trial to endure or a difficulty to navigate? Don’t we all secretly long to live on “Easy Street?” Does this not explain our fascination, even our veiled enjoyment, whenever we hear of the trouble that comes to those whom we regard as people of privilege, power, or possessions? Having envied their lofty position for so long, we find strange enjoyment in the misfortune that has befallen them.

Easy Street – Isn’t It Really Just a Myth?

At the outset of his public ministry, Jesus endured trials. But not because he chose them. Like you and me, I suspect he sought to avoid them. Which is why in Matthew’s gospel account, we are told the Spirit “drove” him into the wilderness (Matt. 4:1). That’s a literal reading of the Greek text, meaning something similar to what we’d say “forced” him into the wilderness.

Life has a way of taking you where you need to go for the evolution of your spiritual consciousness. You cannot avoid difficulty. Nobody lives on Easy Street. The only difference between any of us in terms of the difficulties we do face is that some seem to face far more than their fair share.

Job’s counselors explained, and of this much they were right, “People are born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).

Life will try you. Sometimes, relentlessly.

When I hear Christians opine, however, “God will never put on you more than you can handle,” I recoil, just as I would if I saw a snake on a path while hiking through the woods. I do so for a couple of reasons.

First, God does not put anything on anyone, any more than you would make your son or daughter’s life more difficult or miserable than it is already. Just the opposite is in fact the case for most loving parents. They do all they can to help their children avoid difficulties. Stop attributing such nonsense to God.

Second, there are times in life when the trial…the burden IS greater than any human could possibly bear. If you don’t think so, then consider yourself lucky.  But do not consider yourself special or, worse, as “protected” or “spared” by God.

God does not protect anyone or spare anyone. And, don’t bother to quote scripture in objection to this. Just because people in old scriptural times attributed everything to God and believed God would rescue them or protect them from all trials and difficulties – if of course, they prayed and lived right – …and, just because they attributed to God their victories as they stood proudly holding the decapitated heads of their enemies doesn’t mean it is so. Stop reading the Bible as a explanation for everything or a justification for shallow thinking.

God simply is. Now, of this much I’m pretty sure, you can be sure: God’s presence is with you always. God’s presence can be known in every experience, too.

And, yes, there are times when it appears to you that something, or Someone, has spared you or protected you or blessed you with something wonderful and unexpected. But do not make the mistake of thinking the avoidance of tragedy means the hand of God has spared or protected you, even as others died going through the same thing.

Furthermore, do not think that picking the winning lottery numbers is the hand of God “providing” for you. Even if you are inclined to say, and who would not be after winning the Powerball lottery, “Thank you Jesus!” Say it to yourself, if you wish, acknowledging the feelings of gratitude do need to be expressed, but be spiritually wise enough to remember, God had nothing to do with either.

Be Grateful, Prayerful, and Assured…But Do Not Be a “You-Know-What!”

God has created this world and her presence permeates it all. But God is not running around placing shields of protection over some, while withholding his protection from others. Such explanations only reveal just how shallow much of the spiritual thinking is both America and in the Church today.

Here’s what I would suggest instead:

Be grateful when an unexpected blessing comes your way.
Be prayerful when you find yourself facing trials and difficulties.
Be assured God is with you in any and all situations of life.

Isn’t this enough? Isn’t this spiritual maturity? Isn’t this avoiding the myth of “Easy Street?”

Do not be so shallow as to genuflect and cross yourself when you score a touchdown.
Do not be so insensitive, even anti-Christ, as to carry a sign around the edges of an incomprehensible human tragedy declaring, “God Hates Fags and this Tragedy is His
Judgment against Sin!”

May God help us!

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