Have you ever exclaimed, “I didn’t sign up for this!”? Most of us have likely heard or read it somewhere, perhaps spoken it in jest or real pain, seething anger or confused disappointment. This______ (fill in the blank) is not what you hoped for, anticipated, or expected. You prayed, asked for God’s help, waited, moved forward and:
- The job would that was supposed to be fulfilling and a wonderful way to spend eight hours of your day? Your boss makes life miserable for you.
- Your marriage isn’t the place of emotional intimacy or sexual faithfulness you expected and vowed to keep yourself.
- You obeyed Jesus, giving up relationships that you knew were sinful, yet were a source of love and affection. Instead of the “all things” being used for good, you’re left with loneliness and deferred hopes.
- You moved by faith into the costly, arduous, emotional, adoption process and now life is complicated and exhausting as scars from your child’s pre-adoption years manifest daily in overwhelmingly sad ways.
- You prayed for God’s help to remain sexually obedient, yet the temptations still rage. How is that fair?!
Sigh. Was Anne of Green Gables right, that the life we thought we signed up for eventually becomes a “… perfect graveyard of buried hopes”?
Jesus chose you and ‘signed you up’ to share in his life.
Friends, what did we sign up for when we became followers of Jesus? Or asking it another way, what did we understand the Christian life to entail once we believed, committed, and began to follow Jesus? Were you told that Jesus blesses his followers with abundance and ease as a reward for forsaking sin, especially the ones we most enjoy? Maybe like many of us, you just assumed that a loving, gracious God would remove troubles, because after all, he has the power to do so!
Jesus clearly teaches us that in fact, we didn’t sign up for the Christian life; he chose us.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)
Surrounding this beautiful verse are amazing promises (see John 14-17), along with commands that Jesus expects his followers to obey. He explains that life with him is one of loving oneness with him. When we respond to his choosing of us, we enter into his life: his compassionate companionship is always available; the Father’s favor and loving comfort are ours; the Spirit’s power to change our desires, hopes, and, dreams is active. Jesus chose and appointed us for a fruitful life!
I don’t know about you, but I did not realize I was signing up for all of that when I believed! GRACE.
Jesus has appointed, or signed you up, to intimately share in his suffering.
Now, what we forget or have struggled to understand is that sharing the life of Jesus means ‘signing up’ for personal death.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. (Luke 9:24)
It may not initially soak into your heart with warm fuzzies, but the ongoing mini-deaths we experience—letting go of a dream, facing painful disappointment, grieving devastating losses— do lead to contentment and peace. When we grow to face life as it really is with faith-fueled realism rather than a demand that it be something it is not, Christ’s companionship steadies us, inviting raw grief, honest cries for help, humble dependence, and deeper communion with our Savior. His heart of grace is tender towards us. As Dane Ortlund wrote, “…when the fallenness of the world closes in on us and makes us want to throw in the towel—there, right there we have a Friend who knows exactly what [our painful mini-deaths] feel like, and sits close to us, embraces us. With us.”
Jesus willingly signed up to be our eternal Bridegroom (see Rev. 16:6-9) and to share everything with us! He’s promised to love and stay close to us, to embrace us when we encounter circumstances we weren’t expecting, and don’t want. The gospel gives us comfort and courage when a detour tempts us towards fear or anger. As Paul Miller observed, “Typically, we define love as the love we choose, not realizing that the love we choose almost always draws us into love we don’t choose.” Amen! How we need Jesus to love and live through us when relationships, vocations, blessings and suffering aren’t what we imagined they would be.
Are you hurting today or battling raging anger because life has become something that tempts you to throw in the towel—in your marriage, singleness, parenting, friendships, or life itself? There’s hope, Sister! Jesus chose you and will strengthen your weak faith and comfort your hurting heart. Talk to him, reach out to a friend-in-Christ or your pastor. Jesus sees you, loves you, and is with you. He signed up for this, forever.
 Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, (Wheaton: IL, Crossway 2020), 48.
 Paul Miller, .J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2019), 122.
About the Author:
Ellen received her MA in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1999 and serves as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Harvest USA, a national ministry focused on gospel-centered discipleship and teaching regarding sexuality. Ellen loves ministry to women and is most passionate about mentoring, teaching God’s Word and spiritually nurturing others to walk deeply with Jesus. New Life Presbyterian in Dresher, PA, is her home church.