Updated: Mar 10
By Glyndora Condon MS MFT LPC, speaks of a different perspective while suffering.
What better person and Deity to speak of one under pressure, than Jesus Christ Himself. Revelations 2:8-11. He is omnipotent (all powerful), Omniscient (all knowing), and Omnipresent (all represent). What types of pressure can we derive as we read letters to the various church congregations? Tribulation, affliction, poverty, and persecution names the most common themes that we read in scripture.
When Christ walked the earth, Caesar was considered, lord. This was observed once monthly with the burning of incense and shouting in public, the allegiance to him which was law. They referred to Christians as Atheists since Christians refused to worship anyone or any god other than the one true God, Jehovah; and as such, then Christians continued worshiping God instead of the Pharaoh or other gods, which then placed them into persecution and at times this even lead to death of these Saints. Whatever we have thought to be our cross that we are bearing today, most of us have not had to face such plight. We may suffer with ingrown toenails, asthma, childlessness, divorce, single parenting, a one-sided marriage, insults, a chronic illness, the loss of a loved one and like at most; and sometimes we feel overwhelmed with the stresses in relationships or with anxiety, depression, or some other mental health, relational, or behavioral concerns. Fearing that someone will take our life as we proclaim Christ or being coerced to worship or starve-is not a common issue that we face today.
However, these troubles, difficulties, disappointments, and painful issues are not minimized since they also create much dysfunction and unrest in our lives.
Poverty is very real in today’s world as it was in those times. In some districts of Rome, if one did not belong to the IN-group of multiple gods and Roman acceptance; then they could not buy anything in the market. They were treated as total outsiders and were totally dependent upon charity. It took much bravery to not pretend to be one of them, or to reject them. This meant that one’s self and one’s family could most likely starve. The church in Smyrna is a unique group of Christians who had absolutely nothing negative said against them. They were dirt poor, yes; but God stated that they were most RICH. In Rev. 3:17 we see the church in Laodicea who was rich in material riches but yet, God said that they were poor, wretched, blind, miserable and naked… so we have to ask how? What made them so different? Was it their wealth or their heart?
It seems that the small, seemingly insignificant people and churches seen by man are exactly those who have what God seeks to do His will. We are not insignificant in God’s eyes regardless of our stories, past, or humble spheres of existence. It is not who we know, how much we have, or any other factor that man deems important that is admired by God. It is our heart. Is it possible that we prize what God doesn’t? Is it possible that when we have walked in pride over all of the things that we thought we achieved, that this time was an affront to God? Can a person rich materially have a heart that is humble and thankful? Absolutely, but this would take much effort as we keep in mind that God truly controls it all and that we achieved nothing on our own accord. Pride is so delusional and destructive.
Why is it that those in poverty are more likely to draw close to God than one of wealth? Why is it that one of excellent health and with many and much, has such a difficult time keeping their eyes and heart centered on God, yet when given a chronic disease or hardship; then once again, they draw closer? Why do we drift when things go well? Jesus warns that those who follow Him will be persecuted and does not promise happiness on earth. He however does promise peace as He walks besides us during the turmoil.
We have the assurance that we should not fear since Jesus promises us peace in our suffering. Does this mean that it is easy, non painful, or like? No. It is through our suffering while keeping our faith and our allegiance, when God is exalted and others see Him in us. These great things that others see during those times as we carry our cross yet do not lose faith-is exactly how God works through each of us. Instead of counting it as a punishment or something unfair-we can listen to Him and do as Christ did, as Paul did, or as Polycarp did. We can thank God that He has graciously thought us worthy this hour to be used by Him as we meet whatever struggle with courage, faith, and the peace of knowing that He is beside us. There is a reason for what we face. It is within His plan. He can use us wherever we are in our journey. Only then does the suffering take on meaning.
We have such limited vision. We see like as a picture of dots while we seek to follow one dot at a time without any comprehension as to what the dots will prevail until we reach the end, but then we see plainly the image. Life is much like this. We see what we go through now but not what it grows inside of us or around us. We do not know what the future holds as we feel doom and gloom over our suffering today-yet years later-we begin to understand what God did within us when life seemed so dark and hopeless.
If you are walking through a dark time, remember that God has a plan and already knows the ending. He does not have finite understanding or sight. God knows what it will take to grow you and His kingdom…and this makes anything that we face-worthy to face.