ChatGPT is an AI bot who can think and write for you. Maybe you’ve heard of this. I’ve seen it in action and it’s quite fascinating. You can ask ChatGPT to do just about anything and in seconds it’s done! You can ask it things like, ‘Brainstorm names for an orange cat we’re adopting from a shelter; Help me pick out an outfit that will look good on camera; Draft an email asking for an extension on my project.’ Amazing, right? For all you know, I could have asked it to write a 900-word article on the spiritual implications of AI automation (Seriously, though, I didn’t).
There is so much about technology that improves our lives and makes things simpler. However, there are implications. Certainly, teachers and college professors are already dealing with students turning in work that AI tools created. Certainly, employers must be wondering if the email, resume, or work produced by employees has been created by a person or AI. The technology so far can produce writing, essays, etc. with clear, factual, human-sounding statements. So easy!
Are there spiritual insights we can learn from this new tool? When I consider our human experience, I think about all the ways we do everything we can to reduce pain, avoid difficulties, shun challenges, and run from hard things. We don’t want anything to be hard.
People are changing jobs all the time because it’s difficult to put in the hours, be accountable to a boss, and deal with the personalities of co-workers. We don’t want anything to be painful for our kids. So, we send angry emails to coaches, teachers, and to the parents of other kids who have mistreated ours. We avoid challenging relationships, so we dump friends, change partners, or leave our church in search of another. We don’t want to intentionally step into new challenges so we turn down the offer to lead, serve others, or give of ourselves what we think we cannot afford to give. We don’t feel comfortable in our skin. So, we look to sexuality, gender, workaholism, or social media to answer the question as who we are and quell the difficult things in our lives.
But hard things aren’t always bad things. You see, we equate “good” with “pain-free.” We forget that there is such a thing as an arduous good. Ron Belgau comments on this in his article of that same title:
An arduous good is a good that requires struggle. A good that is worth fighting for. And a good that inspires fear and hope and endurance in the face of adversity. “Arduous good” is also a phrase that is seldom spoken in Hollywood, and almost never heard on Madison Avenue. In that silence, the poverty of our culture is laid bare… Celibacy is an arduous good, like marriage, or grad school, or climbing Mt. Rainier, or raising children.
We see this in Scripture often. Jesus went through it. Jesus taught it. He told would-be disciples that foxes have dens and birds have nests but that Jesus himself and those who would follow him would face many challenges. He told us that his Kingdom-come would cause family members division over whether to bow to him as Lord. He told us explicitly that his followers must take up their cross and follow him. Discomfort, division, sacrifice. These are all markers of a Jesus-follower’s life.
So, what are we to do in a culture that wants to avoid difficulties at all costs and make everything easier? Christians are to face the hard things of life with submission to Jesus. We are those who trust in his Truth and the Spirit to guide us in all wisdom and spiritual formation. We are those who see the pain in life through the lens of God’s forming us into something more than we are. We see struggle differently. It’s no less painful for us, but we understand that we bow to a Sovereign who can and will work good out of the pain. We are those who run toward the hard things for his glory, for the good of our neighbors and the Church. We are to connect people to full life in Jesus. We will be formed more like Jesus in these ways.
In what ways are you avoiding hard things in this season? How might God be calling you to face the challenging things with a new lens and renewed trust? Where might he be calling you into the gap?
Salvation, too, is an arduous good, a treasure buried in a field, the pearl of great price, for which we will gladly sacrifice everything… -Belgau
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. - Romans 5: 1-5
In the struggle,
Campus Pastor - Ross Campus
White Oak Christian Church