And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
The realities of suffering for faith seem top of mind right now. It’s something Christians focus on as the season of Lent begins during this time of year. Our awareness seems sharper however, with the preceding weeks’ coverage of the martyrdom of nearly two dozen Coptic Christians. Prior to that Kayla Mueller’s letter to her family was released after her murder by the terrorist group ISIS.
Mueller gave herself not just in death, but in life. “This really is my life’s work, to go where there is suffering,” she said before devoting her life and work to Syrian refugees. This is the case with many of the missionaries and aid workers who ISIS has abducted. It was their faith which led them to put aside comfort, money, status, and likely a list of worldly hopes to serve the marginalized and oppressed.
The martyrs’ final moments of suffering are public. Their long-suffering journey in faith is private. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was later executed in a Nazi concentration camp, says,
“Time is short. Eternity is long. It is the time of decision. Those who are true to the word and confession on earth will find Jesus Christ standing by their side in the hour of judgement. All the world will be called to witness as Jesus pronounces our name before his heavenly Father.”
We should focus on the beauty of the prize set before us, not the pain of sacrifice, during this season of Lent.
“The hope of our reunion is the source of my strength,” Mueller wrote to her family and friends. It’s a hope which will go unfulfilled in this world. Yet she is not without greater reward. The glory of resurrection will bring not only the reunion she longed for, but an eternal reunion with her Heavenly Father whose glory vastly outweighs suffering on behalf of his name.
Father God, we hold fast to your promise that you will return to vanquish evil, rebuke death, restore the broken, and fulfill every desire. Reorient us to see our sufferings not as crushing burdens but as light and momentary when measured against your eternal Kingdom. Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
(Prayer adapted from Revelation 21.1-5; John 10.10; 2 Corinthians 4.16-18; Revelation 22.20)
Joy in God
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org