This season of my life I am learning about suffering. I confess in the past, the suffering I experienced in life consisted of things such as a flat tire, hoping my depleted checking account would cover my bills, or a transient sickness would knock me out of pocket for a few days. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not trying to diminish or minimize various types of suffering, yet even in those situations, it has occurred to me that my past sufferings seem small in comparison to the war that rages around me now. I realize the blessing of having lived in a country blessed with abundant resources, access to a family of faith and the peace of mind knowing that safety and security is a priority. That stands in direct contrast to my current world where suffering and persecution is on a much larger scale minus the safety nets I took for granted. The truth is, we cannot empathize with the hungry unless we are hungry. We can’t understand a martyr’s allegiance in the face of death until we ourselves face a persecuting mob. In other words, we can easily rattle off scripture, but can never truly understand how that will flesh out until our own lives and faith are in the midst of those same circumstances.
As a believer, I have discovered that faith is a radical thing. In a culture of faith and freedom of religion, it is easier to exercise it and proclaim it. We often forget that the tests of our faith reveal the depth of our faith. We learn the right verses to quote, the correct blessings to pronounce and the cliché responses that are expected in the world of Christian culture. I have been humbled to examine my own religious culture and to examine if what falls out of my mouth is what truly is felt in my heart. This may be the last thing you expect a missionary to write, yet I would be a hypocrite to recite expected religious liturgy without acknowledging the truth about all believers…we are human and flawed.
I often think about John the Baptist and doubting Thomas on their quest of solidifying their faith. We may think of Christians who ask “Why” to be heretical. And God forbid if we question God and admit that we do not understand His ways or thoughts. Through this time of my life, I have come to relish the honesty of those who hurt, do not understand and who ask those questions. It is not a guarantee that God, in His sovereignty, will in fact give us all the answers, yet there is something beautiful about people being honest with themselves, other hurting believers and ultimately with God.
My faith started with the question “Why?”. Growing up in a Christian family, I learned the proper responses and church culture required of me. I thank God for Christian parents that exposed me to the Truth of the Word, yet we all know that faith is a personal journey and not an inherited way of life. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started asking, “Why do I believe what I believe?” I had to strip away much of my learned behavior and begin the solitary journey to discover Jesus for myself. This was a milestone for me.
Now is the season of testing. It is the time in the caves alongside David fleeing from Saul’s spear. It is a time when faith seems to slip, questions come, and yet silence. James reminds us that we should ‘rejoice in our sufferings because it yields perseverance’. This is when the providence and faithfulness of God’s hand reaches down in the midst of my ignorance and utter exhaustion to fulfill that promise.It is the time in-between that is the battle.
What would our family of faith look like if we were honest about our questions and doubts? How much more could we relate to those within the faith and those struggling outside the faith? How much encouragement and solace would it bring to us and others knowing that we are walking the craggy, narrow road together and not possessing all the answers? I write this today to remind us all to be honest, to remain steadfast in prayer, trust God and to never allow ourselves to be calloused to the sufferings of others and their battle to endure it.
I love you all! LG+LP