Enduring a Hard StruggleFr. Barnabas Powell
Platitudes can be absolutely infuriating when you’re suffering. And, usually, a person in pain hears things like “Oh, just trust God” or “into each life a little rain must fall” as uncaring dismissals of their very real heartache.
To be sure, most folks mean well, but deep in their own hearts they are afraid of getting too close to pain lest it capture them. Let’s face it, folks avoid pain. And for good reason. Pain hurts.
So, what are you suppose to do when you encounter someone in pain?
Chances are good that today, you will. Someone you see at the office, someone you run into at lunch, or maybe even someone in your own home is silently suffering. Or maybe not so silently. Maybe you are suffering today.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 10:32-38:
Brethren, recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. ‘For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith.
You see, the path to endurance (notice I didn’t say “rescue from”) always passes through the heart and mind first. The temporary suffering of any moment is always an invitation to explore what is at the heart of your hope, of your strength, of your endurance.
And hope, and an eternal perspective, sets me free from the tyranny of despair over the loss of anything temporary. And here’s the key: much of what I possess as things or positions are temporary.
But notice what the Apostle reveals when he offers that after you realize you have a “better possession and an abiding one” he counsels you to “not throw away your confidence.” Even in that place of darkness and suffering, you still retain the control over whether you “throw away” your confidence or you keep it! Even when you feel powerless, you always have the power, the choice, the freedom, to hold onto you confidence and your faith.
And when you hold on, you build spiritual endurance. Notice that Paul insists these folks appreciate that no one would endure such suffering for a faith that wasn’t eternal. And it is that “better” and “abiding” possession of Faith that put all the temporary suffering into perspective!
But even if you stumble and “throw away” your confidence, there is still hope, because you are never alone. You never suffer by yourself. Being a part of the Body of Christ means you don’t stand by yourself, you don’t “believe” by yourself, but in the companionship of all the faithful through the centuries. That’s a mighty big family! And a huge source of encouragement and strength.
I never will forget sitting with one who was in such pain over a certain challenge in his life. This person confided in me that he had lost his faith. His face filled with amazement and wonder when I replied “Don’t worry about your faith, we will hold it for you until you get back!” That’s the power of the Church, the Body of Christ. You don’t have to endure suffering by yourself. We believe, we love, we stand with each other as the Body of Christ. If you are a believer, you are not alone.
So, today, when (not if) you come across one suffering, be present to them and assure them they are not by themselves. They do not suffer alone. You are with them. The Church, the Body of Christ adds endurance to their weakness, and hope to their despair. And if you are suffering today, know there is great power in holding on to your confidence, not in yourself, but in One Who has already defeated every enemy you will ever have. Being Orthodox on Purpose means being connected to an endless Source of hope and confidence.
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