I have just returned from a trip to another country in the Middle East where a group of fellow believers and I had the privilege to meet with members of the persecuted church. Hearing their stories and their perspective on hardships and suffering made me think long and hard about my own theology of suffering and waiting and hoping. Some of the stories we heard were so encouraging and the believers we met were so faithful to the Lord, others however were stories of just surviving and of seeing no point to the many sufferings that they had endured at the hands of ISIS. It was clear though that everyone had suffered to one degree or another but it was also clear that the severity of their suffering was in no way linked to their current levels of faith and hope. If anything I would almost argue that those who had suffered the most had the most hope. Suffering is not confined to persecuted Christians, around the world hundreds of millions of people live in unspeakable circumstances and suffer a lack of food, clean water, security, a place to sleep at night, a job to go to in the day or perhaps a person to love them. Suffering comes to most of us in one way or another. But it has become clearer to me that it is not suffering that is the problem, it is what we do with it. After all Jesus himself said, ‘in the world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world’.
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