In talking to a sister in the Lord here at our home over this past weekend, she made a rather off-hand comment that I’m still thinking about. Though she didn’t explicitly say so, she was comparing her life to mine, and she said, “We African women, we are used to struggling. You, you don’t struggle.” And she looked around our home and shrugged, as if she didn’t want to continue. She was comparing my physical circumstances to hers, and I could agree that (in the sense that she meant it), I don’t struggle. I am able to live at home with my husband. I have the luxury of homeschooling my children. We put food on the table for three meals every day (and it’s not just ugali). When I had a first degree burn on one thumb, and then a bandaged thumb due to lancing an abcess, we could afford to pay someone to help out with daily laundry for a few weeks. I don’t *have to* work outside the home to meet our family’s necessities. I could say a lot more, but it’s pretty obvious that I don’t struggle.
But I do…I struggle against sin. I struggle to grow in faith through circumstances that I perceive as “suffering,” in various senses of the word. I don’t equate my “suffering” with this sister’s–but does that mean that I don’t struggle? The Lord allows us all to experience trials of various kinds. What is a trial for me would be a life of ease to this sister, surely; but that is no grounds for spiritual judgment. I think that this sister’s motives were pure, and I didn’t get any sense of spiritual judgment from her–but of we’re honest, I think we’ve all been quick to jump to unfair conclusions in regard to others at some point in our lives.
It’s easy to compare…but if my sister compared her life to those who in the past (or currently) suffer imprisonment, torture, and even martyr’s death, it would be equally easy for those on the the other side of the equation to say that she “doesn’t struggle.” Perspective, indeed.
I mentioned this comment to Marc after our conversation, and he was quick to concur that (in the sense she meant it), I indeed don’t “struggle.” He compared it to us trying to deal with our children’s little difficulties (like hating math, not wanting to do a half-hour chore, or what have you) when of course if they were in the adult world dealing with “real” problems, they would realize how petty those trials really are. But even if we were to encourage them to play the comparison game to gain some perspective (“gee, son, guess what fun you’ll have when you get to be an adult!”), would it really make them not “struggle?” And does it actually make their trials any less difficult when they’re going through the process? Maybe yes, and maybe no. Depends how you present it, I guess. But each person’s trial is a trial, indeed, to that person. And God uses those trials to shape and refine us, to show us the genuineness of our faith. What is difficult for one may not be for another…but “to his own master he stands or falls” (Romans 14:4). God knows the heart of each man, and that is what He is concerned with in allowing various trials into our lives. So let’s not be quick to judge one another, but rather encourage one another to persevere and honor God in spite of our present “sufferings” (be they large or small). And let us personally press on in times of trial to find what is good and strengthen ourselves for God’s glory, rejoicing in the Lord.
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will ofGod.
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:1-8)
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:3-6)