Trials, Tribulation, Persecution and Love
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.”
-2 Thessalonians 1:3-5
We started studying 2 Thessalonians last night in our fellowship/bible study group, when one of our members started on how he was saddened by what he sees in the church today regarding the lack of love displayed among the believers. There was some discussion about the lack of persecution we suffer. The thought from the one discouraged is that the manifestation of love should just be something we strive for, and that is an obvious thing to me as well, yet still we find ourselves lacking. If we love Jesus we will obey his commandments, and He also prayed that we would love each other. So in our love for Jesus are we loving each other as we should? I haven’t felt much love from the brethren here, but what have I given out? Another thought was that our love is in not leaving each other over trivial matters, or divorcing as the word that was used. Would we, as a group that had been together for two years be strong enough to see each other through the next 10 years, or 20?
As I listened to the group I pondered my connection to these people. We started being with these people 2 years after we moved here. It was still a very difficult time for us, not only in the things we had left, but in seeing some of the ways Christians treat each other. It was a powerfully rough time. This group formed through some of this hardship and depression I was suffering. I was glad we decided to have it at our house, because it is a rare excuse I can come up with in not coming. Many a time there was that I would sit in silence most of the night, not wanting to share my thoughts of feelings. My belief in my lack of importance contrived itself to shut me up. It was noticed, but not pushed. Eventually I would give myself over to opening up, denying the feelings of not trusting people, and it was rewarding. The culmination was two Emergency room visits last year that allowed me to be myself, open up and start loving these people.
I shared that the way I feel about these people would keep them in my hearts for years to come, no matter where I end up. But it was only through the tribulation I went through that I felt this way. Even in the verses above it seems that their love, in some way, grew from the trials and persecutions suffered.
The other thing I shared is the idea that we aren’t really holding onto the idea that we are part of a way bigger thing than just living and dying. We have a grand hope and a kingdom to share. Our lives are truly supernatural and that makes us realize that what happens here and now is just so stinking temporary. Our goal is not in being happy here, but looking forward to the grand green pastures of being with our Lord and Creator forever!
One of the things I ask the children here, when I get the opportunity to hang out, is, “Does God want us to be happy and never have a hard time in this life?” All of these kids would say that God wants us to be happy and never suffer. Eventually, when we grow up, and if we remain in the faith, we are given the idea that suffering is for our good. That only the loving parent will discipline their children. We don’t get the idea that tribulation brings perseverance brings character bringing hope until we are “ready” for it. We may understand this concept, but the teaching or perhaps hope as a child that everything will be easy stays with us, and we don’t give ourselves to each other because dealing with other people is hard.
I also brought this up to some guests we have and she said that when going through a hymnal that was about 150 years old, she found in the topical index, “hymns for when a child has died”. Can you imagine that being in our hymnal today? How much is death such a common thing when we are doing hip replacements to 85 year-old people today? We hear in other cultures that when you are ready to die, you take your mat away from the village, lay on it and wait for death. We know that where love and hope and faith grows is where death can be just around the corner. We do not suffer in this country if we are not facing hardship and disease and death on a daily basis. We may believe we are, but in contrast, are we really?
Lately, to me, it seems that we are losing a lot of ground, culturally, to the amoralist society. I wonder about how much we fight these issues and wonder if we should. Especially when we should be looking at people changing on an individual basis and not an entire culture. The fight is right, but is it worth it? I ended up hoping to run into more sinners (of whom do not know Jesus), so that I can share the kingdom I am looking forward to. I pray that God gives me the words, but I have a life I lived in sin and now I am a child of God, and this is what I need to share. It’s not me who changes people, a culture, but God who changes lives. I still sin, why should I try and stop sin when some segments of my life is defined by it? Our world is turning upside-down and we are all here for a purpose, for this time, to this generation. May we grow in love and hope and faith through the trials now and the tribulations of the future.