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I have been thinking about our suffering Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have been asking myself a couple of different questions? One is, “Can I be thankful it’s not me?”

Or, to put it another way, is it spiritually okay for those Christians who are “taking their ease in Zion”, to be grateful that they are not suffering like so many others around the world?” After pondering those questions, I have been wondering if the better question might be “Should I be jealous of them?”

This new track of thinking started as I finished up reading 2 Corinthians. Paul writes about his thorn in the flesh in chapter 12, and asks God to take it away three times, and God doesn’t, which leaves Paul to exclaim in verse 10, “I delight in hardships and difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Isn’t that interesting? He doesn’t say that he perseveres, or stands firm, or endures hardships, but that he DELIGHTS in them. That reminded me of what he said in 6:19; he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing“. That made me think of James 1:2, “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”. Which led me to 1 Peter 1:6,8, “you have suffered grief in all kinds of trials…and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” Which brought me back to Paul in Phil. 3:10, “I want to know Christ … and participate in his sufferings”.

There is nothing that most Christians want, including me, but to enjoy a painless, trouble free life without any suffering or hardships. But that seems opposite and contrary to what much of the NT teaches. So maybe in prayer request time at church or small groups we should pray for grief, trials, suffering and hardships. Maybe we should be righteously envious of those in pain or fleeing their homeland. How about desiring persecution, after all, Jesus said, “Happy are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil things about you because of me. Rejoice and be glad…” (Matt. 5:11)

But then I think of Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb and how he was troubled in spirit before he went to the cross. He didn’t seem to be glad and rejoicing. Or, how about in the parable of the Good Samaritan? The Samaritan didn’t approach the man who had been beaten and robbed and proclaim blessing and joy. No, he took pity on him and helped him. He loved his suffering neighbor. In the sermon on the mount Jesus taught the disciples to pray “save us from the time of trial; deliver us from the evil one.” So now I’m honestly not sure what to think of the Ukrainian Christians plight or how to pray about it.

On top of everything else, I have been going through Isaiah and his prophecies against Judah, Israel, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Moab, Damascus, Cush, Tyre, and Edom, just to name a few. The significance of these prophecies is that God is in sovereign control of all the countries, all the time, and does with them as he likes. Also, Jeremiah proclaimed to Judah that “I will summon my servant, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon” to destroy you completely. For all we know, Putin is also God’s servant, summoned by God to invade Ukraine. I think we have to ask, “Was it just some random act of chance that Russia invaded Ukraine? or is God behind it all, pushing some buttons and pulling some levers so that in the future he will somehow be glorified through it all? Or is it just sinful humanity run a muck? Or both? I don’t know. It’s easy to ask hard questions. It’s more difficult to come up with good answers.

All I know for sure is that God loves us and wants us to be happy, especially in the long run, in the big picture of life, in eternity. It’s easy to be happy when everything is going our way, but God, in His Way, makes it possible for His Children to rejoice and be glad amidst seemingly impossible and extremely difficult situations.

God, help us to be like Paul and delight in weaknesses, hardships and difficulties, for when we are weak, You are strong.

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