On many days it’s no problem for me to just jump in and help wherever and whenever needed. But all too often, if I’m being totally honest, I only like serving Jesus and other people when I was planning on it and I had time to mentally prepare for it. I struggle with being inconvenienced.
As idealistic as it sounds, if we want to capture the heart of true Christianity and true image bearing, we must see inconveniences as opportunities rather than annoyances. This is certainly not easy for our fragile humanness which seems to crumble at the smallest bump in the road, but it’s when we are most inconvenienced that we can most display the charity and hospitality of our Heavenly Father.
When personal inconvenience is the backdrop to your willingness and love, the character of Christ shines that much brighter through you. So what does the Bible say about inconvenience?
Why Is Being Inconvenienced So Frustrating?
One reason inconvenience is so annoying is because of sin. I know that sounds overly simplistic, but what is sin anyway? Sin is certainly disobedience towards God, but I believe the Bible gives us a deeper definition as well.
Sin is when we fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The glory of God is the visible, knowable, expressed character of God on display for the world to see. To glorify God is to bear his image accurately. Therefore, sin is when we do not accurately display the image of God, thus falling short of his glory.
When we refuse to love in times of inconvenience, we are not bearing the image of God well. Sin is at the root of our desire to “love” only in times of convenience. Of course God has more love than us, so God can love better than us. In other words, there should be boundaries in your life. You will burnout and won’t survive if you allow yourself to be constantly inconvenienced. But if you never love unexpectedly, you are showing you are not bearing the image of God as much as you could be.
Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” When we help others in times of need, which never come in times of convenience, we are fulfilling the law of Christ. When you obey the law, you are reflecting the character of God and glorifying him.
I struggle to do things that are “forced” on me and when I have not had time to agree. If your freedom to be a “cheerful giver” is violated, you should not accept this. There’s a difference between being inconvenienced by someone and someone violating your boundaries and choice to say yes or no. But this idea of being “off duty” from loving others is not biblical. We must always be ready to serve (2 Timothy 4:2), thus nullifying any feelings of being “forced.” If you prepare your heart before the inconvenience arrives, you will be ready to serve unexpectedly. These are high ideals, but biblical nonetheless. Nothing we are expected to do in the Bible can be accomplished without God’s grace empowering us.
Jesus Loved Even When Inconvenienced
Yes, as finite creatures we are commanded to rest even as our infinite God has rested. But when you look at the life of Jesus, who is the perfect image of God and man, we must admit how well he loved even when inconvenienced.
When you read the chapters leading up to Luke 9, it is a dizzying chain of events outlining the ministry activity of Jesus. Traveling, preaching, healing, getting kicked out of some villages by mobs, getting stocked by adoring fans, and on and on the ministry merry-go-round was going.
When Luke 9 begins, Jesus sends out the twelve with power to heal, cast out demons, and preach the gospel in the surrounding villages. Luke 9:10-11 then explains:
On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.
It’s not surprising why Jesus took them to get a little rest and recuperation. I’m sure the team was exhausted. What is surprising is how Jesus welcomes the uninvited crowd who barged in on their private meeting, “When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them . . .” Huh? That’s so not the reaction I would have had. “No, you are not invited. We’ve been serving people constantly for months now. We need to rest with Jesus. Go away . . . please . . . thanks . . . no seriously . . . bye.” But Jesus welcomed them.
The disciples clearly had the same reaction as me, “Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, ‘Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place’” (Luke 9:12). They had put up with this long enough. “Send them away, Jesus. Come on, we are tired. Plus, they need food anyways.”
Jesus then adds to the inconvenience and now asks the disciples to feed this crowd of 5000 even though they had no time to prepare for such a huge dinner party. It’s like he is intentionally trying to put his disciples over the edge. There are many reasons Jesus asked them to feed the 5000; but perhaps his main point was that if you want to love to the standard of God, you are going to need the power of Jesus Christ to do it. Perhaps he was asking “too much” so they would see they could never really love people without his power.
The disciples could not feed this crowd in their own strength. And even if they did have the money to buy that much food, they certainly didn’t want to. The same is true of us when we are asked to love even in times of inconvenience. Of course we don’t want to. We are limited in our love. Our love will always run dry.
To love like Jesus, we need the love of Jesus to give away. We must always seek to serve out of our fullness in Christ. Jesus could love even when inconvenienced because he was always full of the love of God. The more we are connected to God, the more we will be able to love well even when it’s not easy and neat.
What Does the Bible Say About Inconvenience?
During my times as a pastor, I found myself really liking those people who were ready to help out in the areas of need. I’m a big advocate for serving in your gifts. If you don’t serve where God has empowered you to serve through your desires and talents, eventually you will lose passion for ministry and burnout.
With that said, often our maturity is most revealed through times of inconvenience. As C.S. Lewis stated, “Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is.”
When there are needs that need to be met and you don’t want to, when things come up out of nowhere, or when you are called upon to serve outside of your giftedness, these are the moments when we can make a great impact for the kingdom not through our skill but through our love expressed in inconvenient ways. When teaching on what the Bible says about inconvenience, Rick Warren states:
He wants us to count the cost of our commitment, because he knows it will demand everything we have (Luke 14:28). In essence, Jesus warns us away from a romantic view of following him. He understands that when we volunteer to go anywhere at any time, our romanticism will wither when our commitment becomes inconvenient — or when it collides with the full cost of discipleship.
Discipleship means we give up any thought that there will be bits and pieces of our lives that can remain unaffected by our relationship with Jesus. We can’t say “yes” to Jesus and expect to hold on to a portion of our independence. He demands it all.
We no longer have the choice to serve only when and where it is convenient for us. “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest” (Luke 9:58 TEV).”
The Bible says a lot more about inconvenience (Hebrews 13:1-3, Matthew 25:37-40, Galatians 6:1-5, Romans 15:1-7, Luke 10:25-37). In some ways, it seems all true forms of love must be inconvenient to some degree. If you service was convenient, it probably did not personally cost you much. And if it did not cost you much, it’s not a strong expression of Christ-like love.