Revelation 7:9-17 – Persevering to the End

After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice:

“Victory belongs to our God
        who sits on the throne,
            and to the Lamb.”

All the angels stood in a circle around the throne, and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell facedown before the throne and worshipped God, saying,

“Amen! Blessing and glory
        and wisdom and thanksgiving
        and honor and power and might
            be to our God forever and always. Amen.”

Then one of the elders said to me, “Who are these people wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”

I said to him, “Sir, you know.”

Then he said to me, “These people have come out of great hardship. They have washed their robes and made them white in the Lamb’s blood. This is the reason they are before God’s throne. They worship him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them. They won’t hunger or thirst anymore. No sun or scorching heat will beat down on them because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Common English Bible)

There is a day coming when followers of Jesus will see him face to face. Believers will serve the Lord continually. God’s very presence will be their permanent shelter. It will be a glorious time of unending peace, harmony, and rest.

There shall be no more worrying about how to make ends meet, where we are going to get our needs met, and anxiety about the future. Injustice will be a thing of the past. Unending love and light will replace it.

First, however, before this permanent Sabbath, there will be trouble, hardship, trial, and even martyrdom. There is presently pain and suffering. Like a woman in labor, this must take place before there is the glory of new life. 

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Christopher Reeve

Sometimes the difficult circumstances of life seem to have no end. Yet, they will eventually pass, and we must continually keep this in mind. Christians have the hope of God’s pastoral presence forever guarding and keeping our lives if we endure to the end.

Perseverance, endurance, and pushing through hard situations are necessary to realize the finish line. We cannot just sit here on earth in some sort of holding pattern waiting for the end to occur. Just as an athlete must go into strict training in order to run the race well, finish strong, and cross the line, so we as Christians are to be in training – utilizing an array of spiritual practices that will fortify our souls to keep going and finish the race. 

The book of Revelation was a vision of the Apostle John given to believers in hardship who needed to persevere. Giving them a glimpse of the glorious ending was one way of helping them in the present to live for Jesus Christ, despite the pain.

Since the Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon, here are some ways we can build a enduring and persevering spirit until Christ returns:

Don’t be afraid to fail.

That’s because, for the believer, we know the ending. We may feel like colossal failures, at times, yet, because the Lord is with us, we have nothing to fear. Being secure in our identity as God’s people enables us to step out and engage the world.

When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
I trust God, so I am not afraid of what people can do to me!
    I praise God for his promise to me. (Psalm 56:3-4, ERV)

Take small steps of faith.

We can incrementally improve ourselves daily through our growth in grace. We don’t need to always do big things for God. We can do small acts of kindness with big love.

Continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory, now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, GNT)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’The second most important command is this: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.’ These two commands are the most important. (Mark 12:30-31, ERV)

Identify the resistance.

Name the obstacles, impediments, and challenges to perseverance. Our awareness of what hinders us gives us the power to choose how to handle it.

We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall. We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. (Hebrews 12:1-2, ERV)

Practice good self-care.

The body, mind, emotions, and spirit are our vehicles to doing the will of God. So, it is imperative we steward these precious gifts of humanity with care. The only way we will make it over the long haul of our lives is through paying attention to this.

God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us new people so that we would spend our lives doing the good things he had already planned for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, ERV)

Surely you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you! (1 Corinthians 3:16, GNT)

Know why you are persevering.

Losing connection with why we do what we do leads to dropping out and giving up. Yet, when we can maintain what is most important to us, it helps us push through all the sticky points of our lives.

So, if you eat, or if you drink, or if you do anything, do it for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, ERV)

Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17, CEB)

Patient God, you tediously work until your plans and purposes are accomplished.  As you are slowly bringing your kingdom to the world, strengthen me so that I do not give up.  Help me to persevere, living and loving like Jesus, to his glory.  Amen.

Hebrews 4:12-16 – Jesus Is Our Great High Priest

Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, by Joan Cole

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (New International Version)

Church Persecution and Christian Suffering

The book of Hebrews was originally a sermon preached to a group of believers who had come to Christ out of Judaism. From the book of Acts, we know there were thousands of Jewish Christians who were dispersed from Jerusalem when Stephen was martyred.  A great persecution broke out, and many believers fled west to places like Galatia, Ephesus, Greece and Rome. 

The Jewish believers were immigrants in a foreign land, looking to practice their faith without harm. Yet, their experience was anything but ideal. These followers of Christ found fellow ethnic Jews in the places where they went, yet those Jews had no use for these people that they believed were in some sort of aberrant cult.

What is more, the surrounding Gentile culture did not understand Christianity, at all, and many of those who held to pagan religions bought into rumors, such as, that Christians were cannibals who ate at what’s called the Lord’s Table.

So, here we have a situation where these displaced Christians had no respect from both Jews and Gentiles. As a result, they had a difficult time carrying out business because no one trusted them. They were essentially alone in the world. 

Losing Their Grip

Initially, they embraced their identity as Christians and held up quite well under the stress. However, over time, their resolve began to slowly erode. The followers of Jesus began to question their adverse situation. 

They began listening to their fellow Jews throw doubts on their faith. The hard life was not improving, maybe even becoming worse.  Eventually, the church came to a point where they began re-considering their whole way of life as Christians, and their faith commitment started slipping. The Christians actually considered leaving the Church and Christianity and going back to their old life in Judaism.

The Message of Hebrews

It was at this point that a vigorous believer in Jesus came to town, saw the situation of the church, and preached a spirited message to them. The preacher called them to hold tight to their commitment – to see Jesus afresh and anew as superior over all the Old Testament, as the fulfillment of all the promises of God. 

So, then, throughout the book of Hebrews we have this wonderful explanation and exposition of how to make sense of Jesus and the Old Testament, and of what Jesus really means to the church. Throughout his sermon, the preacher occasionally paused his teaching and gave the people a stiff warning about falling away from Christ. He called the church to be bold and confident in Christ, to stand up to the suffering, and to confront their temptations so that they would persevere in their commitment to Jesus Christ for the rest of their lives.

God’s Word and Work

We pick up the teaching and the exhortation in chapter four. Hebrews 4:12-16 is composed of two distinct sections that are paired together for a reason.  Verses 12-13 give us a graphic visual of the penetrating work of God’s Word, of the reality that God can get deep inside us. The next section, verses 14-16, lays out God’s response to our being under divine scrutiny – that there is grace and mercy available because of Jesus, our great high priest who is superior to every priest of the Old Testament to the point of being the last and permanent priest forever! 

These verses are bound together because we all need to struggle with the tension between God’s Word to us, and our words to God; between God’s judgment that opens our souls on a spiritual operating table, and God’s grace which jumpstarts our broken hearts. Our most fundamental need is for God’s mercy in Jesus Christ.

The Christian Life

It is important that our outer lives and our inner lives match each other. Whenever the two are out of sync, we come under the judgment of God’s Word. These early Hebrew Christians had slowly drifted from the truth so that their inner and outer lives did not line up well.

Some of them still performed the outward duties of being a Christian yet were inwardly despising their hard situation. A growing vacuum developed on their insides as they slowly started letting go of Jesus as their object of devotion. Their hearts began to harden because of their hard lives. 

On the other hand, there were other Hebrew Christians who began drifting in a different way. Inwardly, they tried to maintain their devotion and commitment to Christ. Yet these believers began compromising their outward life to match the culture around them. In both cases of hardening inwardly, and of compromising outwardly, they each shared the situation of drifting away from their original commitment to Christ.

Even today, it is a real temptation to try and avoid suffering, to grow weary of our present circumstances and look for a way to get out from under the pain and find a quick fix.  Whenever we find ourselves in such a situation, the remedy is to be reminded that we must continue to hold firmly to the faith we profess because of who Jesus is.

15th Century Orthodox icon of Christ the Great High Priest

Jesus As Permanent High Priest

Jesus is our great high priest. In the Old Testament, among the twelve tribes of the ancient Israelites, the tribe of Levi made up the class of priests. One of those Levites, always a descendent of the original Levite priest, Aaron, had the task of once a year entering a place called the Holy of Holies, which was at the center of the Temple, to offer a bloody sacrifice on behalf of the people, to atone for their sins from the previous year.

Jesus is our great and ultimate high priest. He did not enter the temporary sacrificial system to deal with sins for only a year. Jesus not only took on the role of high priest, but became the sacrifice, as well. As a result, we now have a thorough and permanent forgiveness of sins through Christ. So, the Hebrew Christian who considered going back to an old outdated system needed to be brought back to his senses and embrace again the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. 

As they considered Jesus, the believers needed to remember that Christ was not so far removed from them that the church could not relate to Jesus. Rather, Jesus is able to sympathize with each and every trouble, trial, and temptation we face because he faced the very same kind of sufferings. 

The only difference between Christ and his followers is that Jesus did not succumb to the trouble, but persevered and secured for us deliverance from sin, death, and hell. Jesus is the One who deserves every bit of our commitment, allegiance, and devotion. Christ is the One whom we are to worship inside and out.

Approaching God with Boldness

Let us then approach Jesus with confidence, with boldness, knowing that with him there is mercy and grace. Jesus not only suffered for us in the past; he also suffers with us now, in the present. We, as believers, are in union with Jesus. Christ is our great high priest, the One intimately involved in every nook and cranny of our lives. He knows what you and I are going through and is ready to give grace to help right now. 

Approaching Jesus has nothing to do with being good enough to do so. Coming to Jesus is about grace. Whenever we drift from Jesus and are confronted with God’s Word cutting us to the heart, the end result is not wrath or judgment; the result is mercy and grace.

Like the early Hebrew Christians, we all face situations out of our control that wear us down and cause us to become weary. In our tired state, we can be tempted to let our commitment to Christ slide in some small way. Over time, the small compromises of faith can snowball into a big slide away from God. 

Yet, Jesus is not sitting in heaven frustrated or confounded. God is not looking for a reason to punish people. It is just the opposite. Jesus, the Son of God, our great high priest, is looking for a reason to give grace and help us in our time of need. Christ is waiting for us to approach the throne of grace with confidence. Right now, Jesus is alive. He is scanning the world and the church, looking to extend mercy to those who need it. 

Asking for Help

We must avoid a spiritual hardening of heart which estranges us from approaching Jesus. Every one of us needs help. We are not God. We have weaknesses. We have confusion. We have limitations of all kinds. We need help.  And every one of us has something else: guilt and shame. At the bottom of our hearts, we feel undeserving, and so, avoid coming to Jesus. Yet, we need with family, loneliness, work, health, finances.

So, what to do? I can try to deny it all and be a superman who doesn’t need any help. I can try to drown it all with alcohol. I can be obsessive and compulsive about controlling events and/or people. I can simply succumb to discouragement. Here is what God declares: Jesus Christ became a High Priest to shatter despair with hope, to rescue that drowning person and that anxious individual.

God planned for a High Priest, a Savior, a Redeemer, and a gracious Helper. You and I are not trapped. We have Jesus. 

The book of Hebrews is all about a call to commitment – an invitation to come to Jesus.  And it is the most important invitation you will ever receive. Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence….

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. Spirit of God, lead us into your will. Help us in all things. Fill our hearts and lives to overflowing with divine mercy and grace so that what comes out of our mouths and the actions we do are compassionate, kind, and good, through our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Matthew 5:27-36 – Lusting, Liquidating, and Lying

Sermon on the Mount by Argentine artist Jorge Cocco Santángelo

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. ’But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. (New International Version)

Adultery. Divorce. Oaths. Jesus chose these topics from the Ten Commandments (7, 9, and 10) to uphold the ethical law of God.

In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets to the heart of immorality and unethical behavior. The physical act of adultery arises from mental adultery. Divorce results from hardness of heart. Breaking oaths as a form of lying.

Adultery

Pornography is a 60 billion dollar a year industry, worldwide. It is the church’s problem, as well:

  • 53% of Christian men consume pornography.
  • 51% of pastors say porn is a temptation.
  • 69% of pastors started looking at porn out of curiosity.
  • 37% of pastors say it’s currently a struggle.
  • 35% of men have used pornography in the past month.
  • 4 in 10 of pastors looked at porn today.
  • There are 100,000 websites that offer illegal child pornography.
  • 90% of 8-16 year old’s have viewed porn online (most while doing homework).
  • 20% of men, and 13% of women, admit to viewing pornography at work.
  • 70 percent of all internet porn traffic occurs during the 9-to-5 workday.

Adultery initially occurs when someone feeds on mental sexual activity with another person. As with most of Christ’s solutions, he lays out a radical means of overcoming it.

Jesus is not condemning normal gender attraction, nor sex itself (which is a gift of God). Rather, Jesus condemns the leering upon another with sexual fantasy. All adulterous relationships and inappropriate sexual relations start with the “look.”

“Lust” is to intensely desire and burn for something, to seek mastery over another. The reason people stare, and lust, is not because of the other person’s manner or dress; it’s because they already have an adulterous heart. 

Whenever we are caught in physical or mental adultery, decisive and drastic action is needed. Jesus used hyperbole to drive his point home about the need of dealing with adultery. The approach is not applying a band aid; it is amputation.

The reason many men and women are snared by adultery, and seem unable to stop, is that they deal with it on their own. The radical action needed is accountability; confession must be offered.

Trying to manage lust on our own is like one individual attempting to contain a nuclear meltdown.

Jesus leaves no room to think it is okay to lust in the heart because I am not hurting anybody. Pornography enslaves its users and degrades women.

As powerful and addictive lust is, God’s grace is bigger and more powerful. There’s no need to be burdened with shame and guilt when the cross of Christ has already taken care of it.

There would not be a multi-billion dollar industry if there were not places in our hearts that are black. Now is the time for forgiveness, grace, and healing.

Sermon on the Mount by American artist Bill Bell

Divorce

Today in America more than one-third of all adults have experienced divorce.

Unfortunately, many divorced persons feel their faith community provided rejection rather than support and healing. There is a lot of room for improvement when to help families, and those having experienced divorce.

Please know Jesus condemns the cavalier divorce, and not all divorce. Anybody who doesn’t like their spouse doesn’t have ground for divorce. They entertain the thought of having a better spouse, even though there is no marital unfaithfulness. 

This is yet another form of mental adultery (and idolatry) which believes someone else can better meet my needs. 

Jesus clearly makes provision for divorce to occur in certain circumstances. Yet, he will not bend to liquidating a marriage over unhappiness with what God has joined together.

The intent of Old Testament legislation on divorce is to avoid a casual stance toward marriage (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Over the centuries, people found creative ways of getting around the law. Although a divorce may be legal, it might not be ethical. Jesus wanted divorce practiced with concern for the woman, so that her rights and needs were considered.

Many took a loose view of divorce and focused solely on “indecency” as grounds for divorce. They did not interpret the term solely as sexual infidelity, as Jesus did, but had a broad understanding of indecency.

For example, if a husband did not like his wife, or, in the words of one rabbi, she continually burns the supper, he may “put her away” (divorce her). Jesus, however, insisted divorce must not happen because of a hard time getting along; or don’t love your spouse anymore; or that your spouse keeps irritating you. 

Being frustrated or unhappy are not biblical grounds for divorce. The answer to most marital problems does not lie in a new spouse, but in the hard work of identifying the idols of our hearts, overthrowing them, and re-connecting. Sin is crouching at the door, but you and I must master it.

Jesus said the ground for divorce is marital unfaithfulness, that is, any sexual activity outside the bounds of the marriage relationship. And, even in this case, divorce need not be an option, if the two people can reconcile.

Christ sought to defend women who are genuine victims. In biblical times, if a wife was given a certificate of divorce, she had four options: 1) Return to her family of origin; 2) Become a beggar; or 3) Become a prostitute to make ends meet; or, 4) Marry again, thus committing adultery if she was divorced because her husband didn’t like her. 

Jesus doesn’t take sides between spouses. Instead, he lifts the original intent of marriage: oneness. Divorce was never meant to be. Separating two people is damaging. However, it obviously occurs. (Matthew 19:1-12)

Divorce exists because of the heart’s hardness in one or both of the marriage partners. Divorce, really, is a legal testimony verifying that a separation has already occurred. It’s a recognition that disunity and non-oneness is already present. Legal divorce affirms that a terrible break already happened, damaging the people involved.

Just as God is one, two marital partners are to be one. Oneness is the primary goal of any marriage relationship. God did not institute marriage for people to live as roommates, but to be a new entity operating as one.

If God found it necessary to divorce his own covenant people, then it is inevitable divorce will occur among people (Jeremiah 3:1-8).  Therefore, let’s be discerning in how we handle each individual situation of marital difficulty.

Sermon on the Mount by Janice Elizabeth Steward

Oaths

“I swear on a stack of Bibles I won’t…” “I will, if I get around to it….” These are a few of the caveats we give when making a promise or oath. Oaths communicate our level or ability of getting it done, or not.

That’s fine. What isn’t fine is making excuses or false promises with no intention of doing what you say you will do. So, Jesus wants all the extraneous language out. Say “yes” or “no” and then follow through. And if you don’t, you’re a liar.

We often lie because we don’t want to do something to begin with. “Yes” and “no” are clear boundary words. Boundaries are needed so there is no oath-breaking.

Boundaries define where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to take and not take responsibility for gives me freedom.

  • Boundaries keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries involves taking responsibility for your choice of “yes” and “no” and living with the consequences.
  • Boundaries protect us from “gaslighting.” Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. The abuser manipulates another into doubting their thoughts, feelings, judgments, perceptions, and/or memories.
  • Boundaries hold people accountable for their words and actions. Without boundaries, we can easily feel used and mistreated.

Jesus wants us to clarify our values and live them out; make wise decisions; identify what we will accept and reject; and follow through on what we say we will do.

Conclusion

Adultery, divorce, and oaths are related. Boundaries – making and keeping promises – deals with outside forces trying to compromise our values. Accountability in naming our struggles mitigates covetousness.

Dissolved marriages and broken promises still happen. Yet, Jesus is there offering grace, not judgment. We may become emotionally damaged, however, there is healing available through the mercy of Christ. Amen.

Job 4:1-21 – Where Is God?

Eliphaz and the other friends of Job, speaking down to him in his suffering, from a fresco in the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow

Job, will you be annoyed if I speak?
    I can’t keep quiet any longer.
You have taught many people
    and given strength to feeble hands.
When someone stumbled, weak and tired,
    your words encouraged him to stand.
Now it’s your turn to be in trouble,
    and you are too stunned to face it.
You worshiped God, and your life was blameless;
    and so you should have confidence and hope.
Think back now. Name a single case
    where someone righteous met with disaster.
I have seen people plow fields of evil
    and plant wickedness like seed;
    now they harvest wickedness and evil.
Like a storm, God destroys them in his anger.
The wicked roar and growl like lions,
    but God silences them and breaks their teeth.
Like lions with nothing to kill and eat,
    they die, and all their children are scattered.

Once a message came quietly,
    so quietly I could hardly hear it.
Like a nightmare it disturbed my sleep.
    I trembled and shuddered;
    my whole body shook with fear.
A light breeze touched my face,
    and my skin crawled with fright.
I could see something standing there;
    I stared, but couldn’t tell what it was.
Then I heard a voice out of the silence:
“Can anyone be righteous in the sight of God
    or be pure before his Creator?
God does not trust his heavenly servants;
    he finds fault even with his angels.
Do you think he will trust a creature of clay,
    a thing of dust that can be crushed like a moth?
We may be alive in the morning,
    but die unnoticed before evening comes.
All that we have is taken away;
    we die, still lacking wisdom.” (Good News Translation)

The Christian spiritual classic, The Dark Night of the Soul, was written nearly five hundred years ago by St. John of the Cross. The gist of John’s observation is that God sometimes takes the Christian through dry times of hiding himself from the believer. 

The pain of wondering where God is and if he will even show up; experiencing unanswered prayer; enduring uncaring and misdirected comments from well-meaning people; all these and more are inevitably part of the Christian spiritual experience. 

The dark night of the soul is not to be confused with personal sinfulness. Its origin is not in self, but God. 

“Silence is God’s first language.”

St. John of the Cross

Whenever one knows with a settled confidence that personal integrity is intact, but trouble abounds, we need not immediately rush to the conclusion that something is wrong with us. It may be the Spirit of God thrusting us into a desert experience to test and approve our faith.

Job’s “friend” Eliphaz offered one of those tired age-old arguments that bad things only happen to bad people. He comes at Job with the inexperience and absurdity of making misguided assumptions. He rhetorically asks: Who that was innocent ever perished?  Where were the upright cut off? 

The conclusion of Eliphaz, therefore, was bound to be off the mark – believing secret sin must surely be the culprit behind Job’s awful misfortune. Certainly, Eliphaz thinks, Job cannot possibly go through such terrible suffering without having done something to anger God.

Times change; the basic nature of people, not so much. In today’s church and world, the same notions still endure. If I had a quarter for every time I heard crazy comments, like the following, I would be a rich man: 

“He’s poor because he is lazy and doesn’t want to work.”

“She keeps having chronic health issues. God is punishing her.”

“The pandemic is God’s judgment on us for not having the Ten Commandments in our courthouses.”

“If you just confess your sin and have faith, you’ll be healed.”

“They’re in big trouble. They obviously did something evil.”

On and on the wrong-headed statements continue, ad nauseum.

The Apostle Peter understood how to view trouble in a healthy way. He said we all suffer – both the good person and the wicked. It’s just a matter of whether we will suffer for doing good and the right thing, or suffer because of saying shallow, illogical, and stupid comments that offend God and hurt others. (1 Peter 3:17-18)

Even Christ suffered. And it wasn’t because of his own sin. It was because of ours. Jesus suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. 

Jesus suffered; so, the follower of Jesus will suffer. There is a big picture only God sees. Whenever we suffer, there is something going on behind the spiritual scene. We must allow God to do divine work, and then, trust that the Lord bends all human suffering for good and redemptive purposes.

“Where there is no love, pour love in, and you will draw love out.”

St. John of the Cross

So, let’s change the rhetoric. Instead of jumping to judgment, reflexively hop to grace with comments like these:

  • “He has poverty of spirit. He’s blessed and will inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • “She’s in chronic pain. God has allowed her the privilege of suffering in solidarity with her Lord.”
  • “We’re in a pandemic. Here’s a chance for us to live out of the Ten Commandments.”
  • “If we confess the world’s sins of pride, hate, and injustice, perhaps God’s mercy will deliver us.”
  • “We’re in a big pickle. No better time than now to grow in grace.”

Where is God? Beside you, quietly and confidently holding you up in your suffering.

Lord God, I entrust myself to you because you know what you are doing. Thank you for the trials of life which humbles my heart to pray. Do your work in me so that my faith is fortified for a lifetime of service in the church and the world, through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.