By Kelly Carr
I tend to shy away from negative information. Is that war movie based on a true story, depicting the horrors and heartache people actually experienced? No thanks. I’ll choose the comedy to watch instead. That memoir about growing up in extreme poverty my book club is reading? Nah, I’ll skip that selection. The nightly news getting a little intense? I’ll flip the channel.
To an extent, it’s OK not to inundate ourselves with only depressing information all the time. However, I know that hiding away from the pain that people are experiencing is also avoiding my participation in the love and healing God wants for all his beloved creation.
Today, Sunday, November 2, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, and I won’t look away.
Pushing Aside the Pain
The word persecution has been used by people to mean a wide range of things over the years. Yet what Christians face in other countries can’t compare to the small grievances I’ve witnessed here in the U.S.
I can’t fathom living in a place where believing in Jesus could get me arrested or physically harmed—actions sanctioned by the presiding government. Yet that’s what our brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing right now in many countries.
On this day each year, a man from our church organizes a prayer event to focus on international persecution. The statistics he reads are astounding and humbling.
As I listen, my human side starts to want to run away from the painful descriptions. How can I ever make a difference? I want to push the stories out of my mind and move to something happier.
But that wouldn’t change the fear and hurt that continues for those I’m ignoring. Their reality remains.
Leaning on Each Other
In recent years I’ve become friends with people living in countries where Christians face persecution. Knowing real people with real hopes and dreams who are experiencing real answers to prayer changes my perspective. They have seen God move in the hearts of people; they experience true joy even in the midst of suffering.
My point of view shifted after I met these dear friends from Pakistan and Myanmar. Now I see specific faces when I hear world news. Now I know specific needs to pray for. Now I look at my own life differently and strive not to take for granted the rights I have as a citizen and the numerous blessings I receive each day.
We were not created to live in isolation. God gave us one another to lean on. When we are weak and hurting, we seek those with strength to lift us up. And when we hear of fellow Christians, saved by the same grace and serving the same Savior, who are fighting for their faith, we who have voices and resources and love should speak and act and give.
Finding What I Can Do
One thing my friends have told me is that they derive strength from knowing that other Christians remember them and their desire to spread the grace of God in their extremely risky homelands.
So when I wonder how I can make any difference in problems so large, I know what I can do—I can remember. I can remember my persecuted brothers and sisters in prayer. I can remember to give generously when they have needs. I can remember to tell their stories so that others may respond.