“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
“Our Father’s love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much tribulation.” (Streams in the Desert)
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I did not meet many believers when I visited northern Iraq, but did have the honor of interacting with a few individuals who are enduring immense suffering and persecution for their active faith in Christ. I felt inadequate when worshipping years ago with Indian believers who had sacrificed much to identify publicly with Jesus Christ, and felt the same in Iraq. My prayer for persecuted disciples is that God strengthens without hardening; a world of difference lies between firmness and callousness. My prayer for you and me is that when the inevitable crucible comes, we find deeply rooted spiritual reserves upon which to call. It is not possible to endure and excel this moment and the next without previously ingrained disciplines that foster a hardy response to the fire. Today is the best opportunity to prepare my heart for what may threaten to crush it tomorrow.
Our calling is to allow Christ to show through us, but the inescapable reality is that anything passing through us will be either slightly or greatly distorted. That need not be entirely undesirable, if indeed it is negative at all. God intends to use flawed human beings in showing himself to the world. Just like vintage glass, we add texture to the light that passes through us. We may distort his image slightly, but Christ must sound and look something like us in order for people to understand him at all. Without us as a filter, God remains an abstract thought, a truth to which we give assent but never know.