Embracing Trials and Tribulations

“The circumstances with which the Lord has surrounded us are the first stage leading to the kingdom of Heaven; and this is the only way of salvation possible for us. These circumstances will change as soon as we have profited by them, converting the bitterness of offenses, insults, sickness, and labors into the gold of patience, forbearance, and meekness.”
– Fr. Alexander Elchaninov, The Diary of a Russian Priest

After the serious amount of meltdowns I’ve been having, I needed to give myself a little slap in the face and get my head back on straight.  The above quote has been popping up on my facebook feed, and it felt especially apropos.

(And from the tattoo on my feet) “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

I always had this vision that if we were somehow lucky enough to get pregnant, I would spend the entire time suffused with thanksgiving and gratefulness.  I never envisioned our financial situation being what it is, and so I stress about making sure we can provide for us and our little one.  And I worry that in my stress, I’m less grateful than I should be, and I worry God will think I’m ungrateful.  All of which isn’t theologically sound – God knows my thoughts, and knows I love this little baby growing inside of me.

But the other truth is that being a Christian shouldn’t be easy.  People (generally speaking) don’t grow in virtues when their life is cushy.  We look at the early church, all the saints and martyrs over the centuries – all these people who left us with shining examples of what it means to follow Christ.  To pick up our cross and follow Christ.  To become more like Christ.  These people took on lives of poverty, celibacy, isolation, persecution, and often died because of what they believed.

The fact is, I should embrace every difficulty as an opportunity to grow.  To strengthen virtues and deepen my faith.

There are big changes happening in the country, as Christians are becoming less and less of the “majority”.  Many (although of course not all) of the people that speak on peace and equality and tolerance are starting to persecute Christians.  This is happening to greater and lesser degrees depending on where you live – Washington state is often quoted as being the “Most Unchurched State”, particularly the Western side of the state.  So I am probably seeing this much more than individuals who live in the “Bible Belt” – but particularly as an Orthodox Christian, where so many people don’t understand what that means, I’m seeing it.  The intolerance for people who have a faith, a faith that does not give in to the winds of change that cultures bring over the centuries.

Obviously there have been stains on the name “Christian” for a long time.  (Which is why I love being able to say “I’m Orthodox” because it usually makes people pause.)  But our faith does not call us to be bigots or to be hateful.  So I’m in no way implying we should treat the people we disagree with, with cruelty.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic… My point is, a part of me welcomes this persecution.  It helps to define who actually believes, apart from those who are just paying lip service to a faith simply because it is “what the majority believes”.  But more importantly it can only provide me with an opportunity to focus on what is really important, and put God first.  I must embrace the difficulties that my life has – instead of taking security in a job, I must take security in God.  Instead of giving in to the emotional roller coaster, I must turn to prayer to quite my mind and soul.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by peach on August 2, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Approximately 75% of the US identifies as Christian….still definitely the majority.

    Reply

    • I think you missed the overarching point of this post, (That I need to change the way I look at difficulties and stressors in my life) but I would love to know where you’re pulling your statistic from, and what does it mean for those people to “identify” as Christian? With the wide range of denominations and stances, the term “Christian” can mean too many different things anymore, to really understand a persons beliefs. The fact is we are by and large NOT persecuted in the US, although I simply said that is starting to change. However, there is some really terrible things happening to Christians in the Middle East and Africa, churches being burned with parishioners inside, families being rounded up and shot. Regardless of country or what religion is the “majority” or “minority” no one can deny that is an atrocity.

      Reply

  2. I don’t identify myself as a believer of any one religion or faith–but I used to. I remember it being very easy to remind others that they should rejoice in persecution or treat obstacles as lessons, but really, really hard to do when you’re on the other side of those obstacles. I think it’s good to try to put your current hardships in perspective, though, and that’s something I need to work on, too.

    Reply

    • Thanks Daryl. I always hope that what I write can be taken and used by my readers, I can’t deny where I’m coming from but I think that the idea that people can “use difficulties to grow” is a universal idea.

      Reply

  3. I think this is beautiful and really gave me some peace and clarity this morning. Thank you for that. Certainly nobody ever gained strength of any kind without some resistance. I have such a difficult time being thankful for my trials while I’m going through them. I do pray for help with this, and in hindsight, I am always grateful for each trial and the strength it has given and the understanding it has fostered, (even if I’m glad it’s over and hope it never happens again. LOL.) But while it’s happening, oy, that’s so much more difficult.

    And I totally hear what you’re saying about the paradigm shift in this country. Whether or not Peach’s statistic is correct, it probably doesn’t account for a lot of variables. “Consider themselves Christian” can cover so many different things… such as “completely against organized religion but IF there is a God then it would probably be Christ” type of thinking, which is still not going to be sympathetic with someone who is fully vested in an organized religion. There are people who believe in Christ, but do not interpret His teachings to be in alignment with the “judeo-christian ethic” or what some would call “traditional values.” There are Christian churches who are more political than theological. And there are factions of Christianity that intentionally persecute other factions. I guess I’m saying that it’s not a “club” of Christianity, and presumed majority, which automatically guarantees no persecution. It should be that way, but in reality it is not. People are people, and all across our great country, people have varying opinions on a myriad of different things, and when disagreements happen there is often persecution and unpleasantness, or worse.

    It’s true that formalized religion, and Christianity in particular, have sort of a “bad name” because of past wrongs of people, people who didn’t live up to what they knew or said that they believed. But as CS Lewis points out, that has always been the argument against Christianity. When Christ was on the earth, he was ridiculed for ministering to the dregs of society. (Publicans, harlots, and sinners, oh my!) It is no different now. That’s kind of a comfort for me when people say “but I knew this ONE guy who was Christian, and he did…” My response is always “and?” yes, we are all sinners. I guess this is a big point for me personally right now because I’m LDS/Mormon, and there’s a giant amount of scrutiny on us recently… most of it erroneous and negative… I even find myself in conversations with long time friends who suddenly find my religion offensive to them because of certain doctrines (sanctity of life and marriage) with which they disagree. And yes, yes there is persecution. But Tulip, I think you’re a better person than I am because I just try to bear up under it, and I certainly don’t look forward to it or hope for more. LOL.

    Reply

    • It’s true, when people throw out statistics of ‘Christians’ I always think “But that includes everything from the hate-group Westb.oro Ba.ptist Ch.urch to the incredibly liberal Episcopalian Church… and everything in between…” All I can do is try and focus on Christ and not on all the pandemonium around me. (I cannot wait for this election year to be over, so sick of all the political mumbo-jumbo on my facebook feed!)

      I don’t know that I’m a better person than anyone else, I’ve got plenty of sins and struggles in my life, it’s all just different. We have certain areas where we make baby steps of progress, and other areas where we really struggle and it’s 2 steps back. But taking the time to step away from the computer, picking up the Bible or something written by the monastics or saints, it helps to change my frame of mind. I’m just lucky that I live in an age where access to written materials is so easy! It’s mind boggling to think about how limited people were a thousand years ago!

      Reply

  4. […] your husband – and father of the child inside of you! You just wrote an entire post about Embracing Trials and Tribulations, remember?!?! Stop wasting time and energy on this, and know that God has this all figured out. And […]

    Reply

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