To begin today, read:
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)
Read it again.
Yup, we read that yesterday too! He does care about you. And, only he can bring peace. He can carry our burdens.
It is good that he can carry our burdens, because there is no promise of an easier life when we follow him. The scriptures are full of the opposite, actually. Listen to what Jesus says:
10 Flourishing are the ones persecuted on account of righteousness because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.Matthew 5:10
We will flourish when we are persecuted because of right-ness. Well, that isn’t easy to swallow. Like you, I’d like to rewrite scripture to say something like, “Flourishing are the ones who never experience trouble because they followed me.”
But, this Beatitude and the verses following suggest that we will encounter persecution because of our walk with Jesus. Bummer. But, also, wow—just as Jesus suffered for redemption’s sake, we get to bear our cross and follow him!
When I was 10 years old, I was in charge of gathering up the neighborhood boys to play football. Often the other boys in the neighborhood were more reticent to lay aside their Nintendo game controllers to go play actual football, but after I called, knocked and negotiated, we would play nearly every day.
On one particular day, it was a bit rainy and muddy, and as we played football on the local high school field, the other boys started getting bored and restless.
I was the slowest boy of the bunch, so one decided to snap me with a wet towel they had found on the ground. He ran off and I was too slow to catch him.
The other boys joined in. Snap. Whap. Smack. And, I would slip and slide and fall trying to chase them off.
Whipping me with towels got boring, so they started hurling mud balls at me. I slumped to the ground. I gave up trying to run them off and just took it.
I can still recall the hot tears mixed with the cold rain on my face. While enduring the pelts of mud and the shame of being too slow to fend off my attackers, I felt the vivid presence of the Lord with me. I felt a holy resistance to this evil that wasn’t motivated by retribution, but motivated by identification with Jesus and his suffering.
As a 10 year old, the Holy Spirit gave me peace. On the wet grass, I endured. But, not alone. Jesus made himself known to me. He was there.
After some time, the boys wearied of their cruel game and drifted home. I stood and began to make my way home.
On that walk, I thought of Peter, James and John being persecuted. And, I thought, if they could take it, so could I.
I didn’t know it, but I was having my first experience of flourishing in persecution. Those boys were jealous that I had a mom AND a dad. They were cruel because men had been cruel to them. They hurt me because they had been hurt. For a moment, I bore the shame of their hurt and sin in my body. But, there it was, absorbed by Jesus.
I am grateful I was too slow to attack. I was unable to lift a hand in my own defense. I was unable to fire back, to halt their destruction with my violence. Because, in that incapacitated state, my power came to an end. And, in my weakness, Jesus was made strong in me.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.2 Corinthians 4:8–10 (NLT)
Jesus strengthened me as their friend. Those boys were never my enemies. Over the next couple of years, they would all come to church at different points. And, even to this day, I have had contact with them in love and respect.
Today, consider the areas of injustice in your life. If you are in a situation of chronic abuse, we want to help you get out of that situation. But, many situations of suffering in life are opportunities for us to be Jesus to others. To even bear suffering so that they might get a glimpse of Jesus’ way among them.
Write out a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to endure others for the sake of what he wants to do in them.