I’m watching an animated movie called Mumfie’s Quest with my daughter. Mumfie, an elephant, is on a quest for friendship and happiness. While walking he comes upon a fork in the road with two paths clearly marked: The Way You Want to Go is one, and The Way You Ought to Go is the other.
Rarely is the way we want to go the same as the way we ought to go. Scripture is clear as to why: Our flesh desires to be friends with the things of this world and is at odds with the the Holy Spirit which desires to bring glory and honor to God. The battle, Paul tells us, is not against flesh and blood but against the powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).
Jesus put it bluntly:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matt. 7:13-14).
The hard way is one of self-denial. It is to be in total submission to the will of God, even when that means my death or even forsaking my quest for friendship and happiness. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests,” said Jesus, “but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” Luke 9:58). And again, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
I have a hunch that Jesus, had he done what he wanted to do, would have ran far from the Garden of Gethsemane just before his betrayal. Thanks be to God, however, he submitted his wants to the will of God, and took the harder road. It made all the difference.
What we want to do and what we ought to do is rarely the same, and the latter is never easy. Jesus promised this way would be hard. He promised that denying ourselves would be the same as our death. Dying hurts. Sometimes it feels like you are wandering in a wilderness and you want nothing more than to run back to Egypt, to your bondage, where at least you had steak and eggs (Exodus 16:1-3). Those who did missed out on the true promised land God had prepared for them. And had Jesus run for cover, he, and all of us, would have missed Easter.
The way we ought to go is never easy. It’s always hard. But it’s always worth it. If for no other reason than to get to suffer with Christ, and hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”