in the face of persecution

Last week I sat down on my green sofa, placed my laptop on my lap, and planned to write. I imagined words flowing out of me. Words would encourage you and build you up. I imagined my words filling you with courage and boldness to face the world in spite of Christians being murdered on American soil. Thoughts of how we don’t understand real persecution and how we didn’t care enough until it happened to us rushed over me. I realized that I didn’t have the words. The words that were necessary to embolden myself in the midst of guilt for not caring enough – and not truly understanding – and being heart broken about my brothers and sister in Christ being shot in the face was too much!

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being able to find the words. I’m sorry for my silence. The eloquence necessary to give you what you need in this situation does not come easily for me. All I have for you is honesty, and the Word. He knows. He understands. He is not surprised or taken aback or scared. He’s not worried. He is faithful. He is in control. He is good. I know we just went over this: reminding ourselves that He’s good. But I think that in these moments, when Christians are being crucified (yet we still feel so far from it) we need to come back to the truth.

billy graham

They are not standing up for nothing. Stephen prayed for his persecutors! He prayed for them as they killed him. Lord, we are missing so much, and we are so scared, but You are so good. Jesus knew this was going to happen. Before He left this earth He told us what to do. What better words can I go to than those of our Savior? We can’t always find the words, but more often than we realize the perfect words have already been spoken.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~Jesus in Matthew 5

The word translated “blessed” here means “when God extends His benefits” or “happy, blessed, to be envied.” You are in such a position when you are under persecution for your faith that others should be envious of you. That is your position, although our feelings don’t always match up with what God has said you are. I’m not saying that it will, it doesn’t always for me. I am saying, He is never surprised. He knew. He warned. He is with us in it all – even when we can’t quite figure it out.

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a letter to a younger me

Dear younger me,

You are so much like I am now, but completely different at the same time. Your boldness and passion about issues is admirable. At times I wish that I could be that brave. But then again, I don’t. You are selfish. You talk more than you listen. More questions are answered by you than asked. Is that really the person you want to be? Stubborn about the wrong things? Going with the flow without even realizing it?

Oh, 22 year old me, you have so much to learn. You’ll get so much more from your relationships if you put others first. If you would confess your shortcomings instead of trying to look like you have it all together, your boyfriend wouldn’t be so frustrated. Why don’t you want to make things easier for him? For both of you? I know, you don’t want to get married or have kids. But girl, you don’t know what you’re missing out on! So much growth and intimacy happens in marriage. It’s difficult, but you don’t have to be the people that you’ve seen fail. If you follow after Jesus with your husband, so much can happen that you can’t see yet.

^^^^^22 year old me and little sister^^^^^^

Why would you listen to me, though? You have it all together! All those years of Sunday school and youth group have equipped you with just enough Bible knowledge to say the “right” things and sound smart. But is the Bible your foundation? Have you really taken the time to see what it says about your political position, your sexual behavior, your relationships with others? I know you haven’t because I know you. That girl who thought it would be good to be pro-choice – not realizing that being anti-war because of the Bible and pro-choice is ideologically inconsistent – is not who you want to be! The girl whose personal experience has more weight than the Word of God in your decision needs to grow up.

I think that you can do so much more. If the Corinthians can mature in their faith after living like nonbelievers, so can you. That’s what you’ve been doing, but it’s time to grow up. It’s time to have some solid foods. Oh, girl, there’s so much more that will be happening that you can’t even imagine. God is going to blow your mind! He’s going to show you how powerful He is! He’s going to change you in ways that you didn’t even know you needed to be changed.

Younger me, my advice is to hold on tight. Don’t forget how ridiculous you are right now. More importantly, never forget that you were bought with a price and then changed and renewed. It’s okay to be frustrated with how things are sometimes. It’s okay to not be sure what God wants you to do. Seek wise counsel. Surround yourself with people who have studied and researched and who love Jesus so much that it oozes out of their pores. Because that’s who you want to be…not who you are now. Stop repeating the rhetoric. Stop thinking you’re smarter than you are. Start clinging steadfastly to your Savior and then sit back and enjoy the ride.

With love and grace from the one who has lived it,

the older you