When you experience life, faith and culture in a radically different way, as I experienced in Turkey, it leaves your mind full. It takes time to reflect and to consider all that God is teaching me through that experience.
One thing that I can’t seem to shake and that my mind keeps returning to is around this reality of suffering.
There is no doubt after hearing testimony after testimony from the Turkish Christians that they suffer everyday in one way or another. It is safe to say that they are persecuted, and through the persecution they in turn suffer.
This is not a stretch for me. I saw it, I heard it – it rocked my faith, it rocked my courage in my own context.
The question that keeps coming to me is around the concept of suffering.
In our western church culture, do we suffer? Your response to this question, like my initial response, will be, "No." Of course, if we are to compare to those Christians in Turkey, “No” roles off my lips quite easily.
I believe there is something deeper here.
Do we in the western church suffer? We certainly don’t suffer physically for being Christians. We aren’t losing our homes or our jobs because we are Christians. My question is whether there is more to suffering than having something taken from us. Can we not suffer as believers for not embracing everything available to us?
Take for example going on a road trip with your spouse. You're driving along and your spouse is pouring out their heart to you and sharing their deepest feelings, challenges and emotions. While your spouse is doing this, you secretly have an ear bud in the ear they can’t see, and you're listening to the radio. Have you missed out asleep at the wheel? Absolutely… you have missed out on the keeping of a covenantal marital relationship; you have missed out on the connecting on a heart level all that was available to you. Have you suffered? I would argue yes.
I believe and have been working through this in my own mind, but more and more as I wrestle through this, I am more convinced that we suffer. We have every possible learning tool available to us to understand the Word of God. We have religious freedom that others in the world could only dream of, yet as western Christian statistics show, over and over how little we actually open up God’s Word, engage in meaningful Biblical community, or call out to God in prayer.
There is a disconnect. This disconnecting causes us to be asleep at the wheel.
Do we suffer? What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear your input, comments below.
The dictionary defines suffering as, "The state of ongoing pain, distress or hardship.” Is the word “suffering” the right word? Weigh in folks.