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July 10, 2011

deep suffering, deeper joy

dark sky

In my city's downtown core there's a Brazilian couple living in a small apartment. They're like a lot of other newcomers to Canada in many ways: they don't own a car, they want to perfect their English, they're confused by some Canadian customs, and they miss their home country. Surely most newcomers face their share of hardships—just one winter in this city without your own vehicle might qualify as hardship—but not like Marcos and Janice.

If I were to explain to you their struggles, it would be convoluted or boring. (I've typed and retyped this, wondering how to be concise). Serious health problems afflict both of them, but especially Marcos, who lost vision in one eye last year due to a work accident. Because Marcos can no longer work, their financial situation is difficult, too.

OK, so I know two immigrants who have had a hard year. Why does this merit a blog post? Because Marcos and Janice show incredible joy in the face suffering. To visit with them is to come away encouraged and hopeful. Not because Marcos' vision has miraculously returned or because Workers Compensation Board recalled their decision to cut his insurance payments, but because they continually are reminding themselves and others of ultimate truth.

The true Christ-follower is ever learning to look at life through a Biblical lens. He doesn't live in an airy plane full of gumdrops and rainbows, where the struggles of life are played down or disregarded. No, he looks squarely at life as it really is for a fallen human. But when a Christian looks at reality, he doesn't bow down in the ditch and give up hope, either. He focuses his mind on the truth, revealed through God's Word, and finds the hope to live another day. He looks at life on earth through the lens of Heaven.

The prophet Jeremiah did this. He wrote, in Lamentations 3: "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me." Jeremiah acknowledged the reality of his situation, and his hurt. "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' Jeremiah filled his mind with truth, and spoke truth to himself, so that he would not wallow in despair.

Marcos and Janice embody true Christianity to me. They tell me stories of near-death incidents or financial trials. Surely these two have been through more serious health problems in one or two years than most people face in twenty or thirty. But their stories are always prefaced, interspersed and concluded with remembrances of the goodness of God. The way their tales flow so naturally from sharing their struggles to meditating on God's mercy shows that they are truly learning, like Jeremiah, to call truth to mind.

When Christians suffer in a godly way, it brings praise to God and deep joy (I Peter 1). Seeing this in action is truly remarkable. Yes, worthy of breaking the silence and composing another blog post.

hopefuly sky

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