Lately I have been going through some very difficult situations in prison. Interpersonal conflicts form a massive proportion of them, in addition to heretical doctrines trying to subvert the people I care for here (not little issues either – things like the deity of Christ). I am struggling desperately to understand how I ought to respond to them, especially since everything I know and am used to doing in situations like this only exacerbate the problems. I do right, and seek to do right, and I am attacked and slandered for it. In situations like this, my life becomes a burden. I cannot find rest or escape from the issues. I cannot simply go an easier path. There is no other path.
In turning to Christ to cast my burdens on Him and seek wisdom in how to handle these problems how He wants me to, I have come to several realizations.
One is that life is not easy. You would think I would know this by now, but it is incredible how hard the flesh struggles against accepting that fact. My flesh longs for an easy life – to cuddle in a cocoon of non-conflict and simply wait out my days here, happily blessing everyone I come in contact with, growing in the knowledge of God without sacrifice. It doesn’t work that way. Life is a war, and I am being savagely attacked on almost every front right now. I need to face that.
The next among many was incredibly eye-opening and challenging. I was reading an anthology of theological articles edited by John Piper, which included a piece by Francis Chan (the title of the book, if I recall aright, is ‘Thinking, Loving, Doing’ and it is very good). A certain thing he said struck me and I heard God point out my fallacy. I had been seeking Him and asking Him to help me survive and bear up under the pressure and frustration and persecution, for Him to give me peace and to solve my problems. Those aren’t always bad things to ask for. But I suddenly saw the mind of God in this situation, and realized the prayer I should be praying. “Father God, what do you want me to sacrifice of myself in order to gain more of you in this situation?”
As my father would say, this is an investment opportunity for me. This suffering is my share in the sufferings of Christ, and for that suffering I will receive recompense from His life. On earth and in heaven. But He is asking me in this to sacrifice myself. To humble myself and bow, not to my persecutors, but to Him. It is in effect a theological version of the old exercise maxim: “No pain; no gain.”
And so I ask for your passionate intercessory prayer on my behalf. Yes, for me to find peace and accord with those around me; yes, for me to be enabled to teach and reveal God’s glory to those who have ears to hear; yes, for me to bear up under the pain and insults and mockery and persecution and humiliation; yes, for me to have protection physically from attacks; yes, for me to have rest and respite from my trials. But also, for me to find the humility, contrition, and crazy love that God desires me to have; for me to have the courage and faith to sacrifice myself on the altar of service to my God; for me to have the Holy Spirit’s living insight into myself to recognize my own errors and sin that hinder me; for me to be able to eradicate those sins.
In Jesus name and in the power of the Holy Spirit, let us pray these.