06 Mar 2022 REFLECTION 2: Patient In Affliction
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
It’s not easy to be patient when you’re waiting for something exciting. Think of kids waiting for Christmas, or a long-anticipated trip to visit loved ones. Waiting is so hard! So if being “patient in excitement” is challenging, is being patient in affliction even possible? Why would Paul write this?
The Christians in Rome were a mix of Jewish people and non-Jewish people (Gentiles). The Jewish people had been forced out of Rome for about five years under the emperor Claudius, and the Gentile Christians who stayed in Rome continued to grow as a faith community. When Jewish people were allowed to re-enter Rome, the Jewish Christians returned to the group they had left. Not surprisingly, this was a time of hardship with some profound struggles to face. Paul knew they could endure their current and future afflictions if they tapped into God’s strength.
More common words for affliction are illness, disease, suffering, or hardship, which are all common for our brothers and sisters in East Africa. They endure through the absence of medical care for treatable diseases. Through drought and failed crops. Chronic hunger and illness. Lack of access to profitable work. As marginalized people they do not have the resources to change their circumstances, and yet they praise God. Most of the hard stories that our ministry partners in East Africa share with us include the phrase, “but we thank God.” With patient reliance, they trust God to help them bear the burdens. And when a burden is lifted, they give God the glory.
Being patient in affliction does not come naturally to anyone. Our brothers and sisters in East Africa have much to teach us about the intentional practice of yielding to the Holy Spirit’s strength. We can experience the love and comfort we need in hard times as our focus shifts to Emmanuel, our God with us.
Questions: Have you ever experienced God helping you be patient or hang on during a really hard time? What was it like? What helps you shift your focus when you feel desperate for a hardship to end?
Prayer: God of comfort, we are overwhelmed by our own afflictions. We feel deep compassion and grief over the afflictions of others. Help us to experience your comfort and to be a source of comfort to others. Let us experience patience and endurance, even in times of affliction, because you surround us and dwell within us. Amen.
Here are a few more scriptures for further meditation on our theme for this week:
II Corinthians 1:3-11
II Corinthians 4:6-7