It’s a scene that will stay with me for a long time. My eyes stared, transfixed as hundreds of desperate people surrounded a military plane as it prepared to taxi down the runway, desperate to escape what they thought was impending tyrannical rule in the country of their birth. I stared at my phone in horror as two people fell from the sky as the plane took off and gained altitude.

In the following days, I marveled as prayer requests from the believers in that country tumbled in. I saw more requests for stronger faith and the courage to stand for Jesus in the face of persecution than I did for deliverance. I read in awe as the believers expressed their honor to be persecuted for Christ’s sake, asking for prayer that they would remain faithful no matter what they faced. 

I knew if it were me, I’d be praying for deliverance and immediate rescue. 

I reflected on how these persecuted Christians’ realities were so far removed from mine. Some families have been separated for safety. Many worry about how they’ll feed their families while in hiding. They are probably experiencing fear and anxiety due to separation from their immediate and church families. They know that there is a very real possibility of the authorities breaking down their doors and arresting them or worse, simply because of their faith in Christ. 

Yet their prayer is simple and biblical: Pray that we’ll honor Christ in death if martyrdom becomes our fate. 

Thinking about the cares and prayers of the persecuted church led me down a rabbit hole and I began to consider…how can I honor Christ in my life today? Free of life-threatening perils, with my basic and security needs met, can my heart still move a little more towards setting my hope in Christ in the same way I witnessed my brothers and sisters in Afghanistan trust him?

I’m beginning to think one of the biggest competitors for our hope is the daily messages and affirmations of things like success, hustle, living your truth and following your heart that litter our social media feeds. They seem harmless enough. Inspirational even. 

But are they harmless? Do they encourage us to set our hope in Christ, or are they the very thing encouraging us to rely on and trust in ourselves and in our own strength and achievements?

Let’s dig a little deeper into four of these “harmless” sayings. 


1. Hustle harder

Hustle harder. Chase that paper. If we’re not on our grind, how could we ever live our best lives?

When I was a kid, I imagined growing up to be super rich with a full housekeeping staff, and a calendar that included flying on my private jet to exotic vacation destinations at a moment’s notice. 

Interestingly, the Bible tells us avoid “wearing ourselves out to get rich” (Proverbs 23:4). Should we work hard to support ourselves and our families? Yes. The Scriptures commend diligence. But let’s not make an idol out of work or wealth. 

Where the culture says hustle harder and that we should always be on our grind, we know that there is more to life than work and amassing wealth that won’t cross over to eternity with us. Our relationships with others, love for God and our fellow man, and faithfulness will outlast any wealth and the luxuries it affords. 

So how do we respond to this message? We work hard, but we also take time to rest, to nurture relationships with others, to serve our families, local church and other causes that matter to us. And as we do, we trust that being faithful in these things will shift our hope away from the “daily grind,” and more towards Christ.   


2. Do what makes you happy

I recently read that a celebrity divorced her husband, and though divorce is a heartbreaking, painful undoing of a partnership, she seemed to almost shrug it off, sharing that her motivation was simply, “to pursue her own happiness.” This mom of one mentioned that she felt guilty for the divorce’s negative impact on her child, but she hoped that when she finds her happiness, her child would understand why mommy disrupted their family. 

Messages that tell us to “do what makes you happy,” and end there give us the impression that our own happiness—regardless of how it affects others—is our life’s ultimate goal.

Are you happy when you have to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness or turn the other cheek when you’re hurt? Yeah, me neither. Yes, God does want us to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4). But sometimes, the way of true rejoicing requires doing things that may not make us happy in the moment.  

We can rejoice always—not just when we feel “happy”—knowing that when we choose God’s way, we’re loving God by honoring his plan for community and fellowship, even when it’s uncomfortable.


3. Live your truth

This one seems harmless on the outside. Authentic even. But can we each live our own truth? Assuming we don’t agree on what is “true”…is there more than one truth?

Proverbs says, “there is a way that seems right, but it ends in death” (Proverbs 14:12). I am concerned that we may fall prey to this death if we choose to do what feels right and true to us, without checking that against anything outside ourselves. 

We should always measure “our truth,” or the way we think is right, against God’s wisdom, which we find in the Scriptures, through the Holy Spirit, and other faithful people of God.

Our thoughts and feelings and “truths,” no matter how authentic, are not what we should live by—God’s wisdom is. 


4. Follow Your Heart

Another inspiring, even romantic quote. What could be the harm in following the desires of your heart?

Wait a second… are we talking about the same desperately wicked heart we’re warned about in Jeremiah 17:9? 

Granted, as believers, we have a new heart in Jesus—but raise your hand if you can honestly say you’ve never wanted to do something un-Christian since becoming a Christian. 

My hand is still down. In fact, I remember my younger self giddily following my heart like the hapless star of a rom-com into a relationship that did not honor God. Spoiler: It didn’t end well.

Rather than following our hearts, we’re instructed to Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Isn’t that a relief? We can go to God with any situation and trust him to direct us. We don’t have to figure it out ourselves. Sometimes, the path God leads us to isn’t the path we would choose for ourselves. It may be at times painful, bumpy, dark, or lonely. But we never go at it alone. God is always with us.  


Setting our hope in Christ may not always be smooth sailing. Our persecuted brothers and sisters live this reality every day. May we be encouraged by their testimony as they face unimaginable persecution for their faith, yet continue to stand firm.

Friend, as you scroll through your timeline and come across messages like these, don’t internalize them without first bringing them into God’s light. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment. May we keep learning how we can move our hope more and more towards the life Christ has to offer us, no matter how tempting it is to buy into what culture says.