Suffering becomes so much more urgent and meaningful when it gets personal. When the things we’ve only heard about in the lives of others enter through the door of our home and takes up residence under our roof, it becomes real. We feel it. We cringe. We cry. We react to it. We fight it. We pray for it to leave. We pray for strength. We trust Christ in its midst. The one thing we don’t do is ignore it and pretend all is ok.
Suffering has hit our family, our spiritual family. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are being killed because they follow Jesus. Though we have never met them, we know them because they follow the same Master we do. They’re family. The ones killed in Mosul because they were associated with Jesus, the Nazarene, are our family. Those killed in Nigeria around the holidays are our family. The 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt beheaded in Libya are our family. The 150 believers kidnapped in Syria this week are our family. The missionary abducted in Nigeria is our sister.
Proximity doesn’t lessen suffering, and it shouldn’t lessen its impact on us. Though thousands of miles away, the persecution is rampant. How much more urgent would we feel the suffering if it were our children, siblings, parents, spouses, or ourselves who were being tortured or killed for the faith? If ground zero for Christian persecution was our own community and neighborhood, instead of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, or Nigeria, how much more would we feel it? For the sake of those who are suffering, let’s make a concentrated effort to feel it. Let’s put ourselves in their place so that we might “remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3). Here's how we can remember them:
Pray for them
Pray for their safety and deliverance from evil people and evil acts.
Pray for them to love their enemies.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matt. 5:44)
Pray for them to have the spirit of Christ by forgiving.
But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Pray for their faith to remain strong, and pray that their faith would translate into belief in their persecutors as they see their faith and the way they endure suffering.
When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said,
“Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
Dream about their future
Those martyred for the sake of the gospel will one day gather to worship the Lamb in fullness of joy and with special recognition.
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they,
and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones
who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood
of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:13-14)
Increase our own resolve
Let our faith be encouraged and spurred on by the faith of our brothers and sisters who are enduring intense suffering for the sake of the name.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone
to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being
accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)