Wouldn’t it be nice if people of faith were assured peaceful, healthy, uncomplicated lives? Some preachers – mostly of the “send us your money to pray over” variety – claim disease and difficulty can be overcome by faith alone, and that adversity simply fills a void where faith is lacking. The prophet Amos, describing God’s attempts to use drought, famine, and plague to convince the people of Israel to return to him, would claim differently. The faithful and the wicked suffered the consequences of the wicked together. When the world experiences similar troubles today, whether we believe they are sent directly by God or the natural consequences of our own misguided actions, faith is not guaranteed to shield us.
In Jesus’s parable of the landowner, tenant farmers kill the blameless servants who have come to collect the agreed upon share of the harvest on behalf of their master the landowner. One might expect the aura of authority lent by their master would protect the servants, but it does not. One can find many parallels in our modern world, where Christians continue to be persecuted for their faith. From actual martyrdom and execution to depression, addiction, illness, and crime,,, our faith exempts us from none of it.
If we are not spared suffering, why have faith at all?
Faith is the source of hope. We believe in God’s eternal plan of justice and salvation, and trust our sufferings are finite. As part of a larger body, we know the suffering and even destruction of one part does not have to mean the death of the whole. We stand in the center of the wreckage and devastation – and sometimes the wreckage and devastation dwell in the center of us – but we do not allow them to define us. In the face of seemingly endless disaster, is there anything realistic about hope? There is if our hope is dependent not on this moment, but on the faith that the Kingdom of God will not be denied. The ailing body of humankind will be raised to true life again. A stumble is still a step forward.
Comfort: God is with us through suffering, whether or not it is of our own making.
Challenge: When others suffer, let’s offer support instead of empty words.
Prayer: Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me. (Psalm 17:8-9)
Discussion: Do you think there is anyone who hasn’t somehow caused someone else to suffer?
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