When faced with the staggering reality that every day our brothers and sisters all around the world are harassed, beaten, tortured and killed for their faith in our Savior, it’s easy to feel helpless. After all, how can we, a world away and often scarcely able even to comprehend the depths of their suffering, truly help? Can we end persecution? Should we? Does sending money for a new house ease the pain of a widow whose family was burned to death inside her home?
In many ways, we are helpless. But perhaps that is a weakness that needs to be embraced before it is too readily dismissed. Consider Paul’s words to the church in Corinth as he recalls his own persecution, “Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor. 11:28-30).
Recently, our staff had the honor of having a pastor from India lead us in a devotional time. He shared a similar insight into this question. We invite you to listen to his words for yourself via the audio file at the top of this post, but in short, his answer was simple:
“You know what we need? We need somebody to identify with us. Somebody to say we are with you. Somebody to say we feel that suffering. We feel that hurt. We feel that pain. We feel it. That’s all the suffering church needs. Someone to know it. Someone to acknowledge it. And someone to be a part of it.”
Does that sound familiar? Jesus bore our sufferings in Himself and now calls us into the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Is it possible that part of that fellowship involves genuinely bearing the burden of our brothers and sisters? And, if it does, what does that look like?
I can’t pretend to know the answer in full, but I would like to suggest a place to begin:
Don’t turn away. Speaking from the perspective of someone involved in this ministry day by day, I can tell you that the easiest thing to do when faced with the countless, horrific accounts of suffering (many accompanied by photographs) is to turn away, to dissociate, and to disconnect. But is that really our call?
Or is our call, like our Master’s, to lay down our lives for our brothers? To spend whole nights in prayer, weeping tears of anguish on their behalf? I don’t believe we can truly enter this place of intercession until we allow ourselves to really stop and look. Take a moment when you read these stories and imagine yourself or your family in such a situation. Feel their pain. Learn their names. If there is a picture – look in their eyes.
I challenge you to embrace the weakness of a tender heart for the persecuted church, taking comfort in the “Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:3-5).