No matter what bitterness has befallen you, no matter what unpleasantness has happened to you, say, “I shall endure this for Jesus Christ!” and it will be easier for you. For the name of Jesus Christ is powerful. Through it all unpleasantness is calmed, and demons disappear. Your disappointments will also be calmed and your smallness of spirit will be quitted.
~St. Anthony of Optina
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He also will deny us;
if we are faithless, He remains faithful—
for He cannot deny Himself.
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” … So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
~ paul, The Least of The Apostles, in 2 Timothy 2
Oh beloved, it is true.
If you are truly willing to be a force in The Kingdom, you will be misunderstood. People will judge you. People who you thought were your friends, will actually turn out to be happy that your life is coming apart.
This fool of a writer has spent the last many years living on the other side of the world from where he was born. He spun me over into situations and places that almost no one ever gets to experience. I have seen poverty that rocks the soul, interspersed with opulent wealth that makes one wonder whether anyone rich even cares about the one with the sores lying on their doorstep.
And, I have been given the chance to share the Gospel clearly, in four different countries. And in one country, China, I have been given the privilege to share His Great Love with people from all over the globe.
choked in the stench of trash mountains in Nagrak-Cilincing
played football on Pentecost, on the plains of Inner Mongolia
breathed the cool air of the low mountains above the sea in Occidental Negros
danced with orphan girls and boys in Mombasa
preached the good news to beautiful Betawis in Jakarta Barat
prayer walked in Mambukal
taught people to think in truth in Tianjin.
shared the joy of the Trinity in Bacolod City.
trained the next leaders of Indonesia at the base of Surabayan volcanoes.
It is a life beyond the dreams of nearly any man. But recently, much of my life has left the highlands of the spirit and been dashed against the rocks of the flesh. Three years in the demonic deserts of Northern China have beaten us nearly to hell.
And what we found to be true is what has happened to me in the past, “christians” really are the hardest people to work with. In the past three years we have felt a growing resistance to our presence. Even as our Love grew, and our sense of purpose seemed clear – we found that there was, and is a group of people here (christians) who believe they are doing a favor by removing us from the community in which we work.
People have said things about us that are just not true. People have taken stances against us wherein they are simply being rude and hurtful. People are talking behind our backs in ways that tear us apart and have created toxic ripples and waves for us to wade through as we slog our way out of the country.
In being pushed out of China, our family is being torn apart by immigration issues. Our special needs son is going to have another year without the help that he needs. And, both my beloved wife and I are walking away wounded more deeply than we ever knew possible.
Can we see it?
The passage shows it. The gangrene that can be spread by lies only goes as far as we participate in its spreading. If we are pulled into people’s pre-conceived notions, and lack of communication. If we buy into the self-righteous and foolish talk of others, and then spin the same idiocy out among our friends, we create the same environment that supports a firestorm like the one me and my wife are currently facing.
So, like Solomon of old, and like Paul exhorts here, we are trying to follow a simple protocol. Flee iniquity and embrace a faithful equanimity. Further, trust Him – for He knows who are His. Beloved, life gets hard sometimes. However, bitterness in the face of other people’s sins against us will do nothing to make any of this better. (April Showers Bring Eternal Flowers)
Tonight is your (and this fool of a writer’s) night. Time to avoid foolish talk and the bitterness it breeds.
Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.
~Corrie ten Boom