The Christian’s Balancing Act

Posted on April 3, 2020

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By David Ettinger

A Matter of Perspective
People tend to evaluate their lives by the culture and circumstances in which they live. For instance, in the West, we measure our lives by our jobs, income, and quality of life. In third-world countries, going to bed with an ounce of food in one’s belly may be cause for rejoicing.

It’s a matter of perspective. You and I are disappointed when passed over for a job promotion. In Sudan, not having eaten all day would be not only disappointing, but life-threatening. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we take what the Lord gives us, weigh it against our goals and desires, and try to find the balance.

A Missionary’s Tale
This dose of contemplation comes courtesy of an account I read on the website of Voice of the Martyrs, a ministry to the persecuted Church. The account concerns a longtime missionary named Petr, who spent 15 years working with the people of Islamic Sudan and Eritrea. For his efforts, Petr received a 15-month jail sentence. His sentence now behind him, Petr described his incarceration this way:

I was in five different prisons, each worse than the last. I was placed in group cells with drug traffickers, violent criminals and radical Muslims – including ISIS members. I was deprived of sleep for days in a cell with no running water, where mice ran over my body every time I lay down.[1]

How would you handle this? Here’s what Petr thought of his circumstances:

I found I was peaceful and joyful in prison, and that is a miracle that only God can do. I can say that I was experiencing an amazing time with the Lord. My prayer was that I wanted to have the right words to speak at any time so that everything I said would be for the glory of God and touching the hearts of other prisoners.[2]

A Touch of Envy
As a supporter of Voice of the Martyrs, I have been reading such accounts since 1992. I must admit to experiencing degrees of envy when doing so. Why? Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.”

Have you suffered in this way or Christ? Neither have I. Honestly, do you seek to suffer in such a way? Honestly, neither do I. And yet, I can’t help thinking that the millions who suffer for Christ throughout the non-Western world have been supremely privileged. Many of these persecuted ones have been maimed for life, stripped of all earthly possessions, lost loved ones to martyrdom, or, ultimately, have been martyred themselves. I can only imagine the glory in which this last category now experiences.

But God has not chosen me to suffer in this way; you can probably say the same. I often think, Why hasn’t the Lord chosen to use me in this way? After all, I am 62 years old, unmarried, and have seen my only child grow to be a wonderful husband, father, and contributor to society. What is there left for me but to offer my body for the cause of Christ as have so many I have read about?

Finding the Balance
And yet, I often wonder how I could desire to sacrifice myself for the Lord’s sake in this extreme way and yet allow myself to be irked by the circumstances of life. How can I be willing to be martyred on the one hand, and yet get angry when my car doesn’t start? How can I be willing to be tortured for my faith, and yet growl when my cat spits up on the carpet? How can I say to God, “Use me as You will,” and in the next breath utter, “Lord, why has the cost of my drug prescriptions risen?”

Life is tricky. Our Christian service is often dictated by our circumstances and, more essentially, by what God wills for us. His Word tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). A coarse translation of this could be, “When God wants you to suffer for Him, He’ll do so in His own time, otherwise, carry on as you are.”

In the Meantime …
I don’t know why the way things are don’t correspond to the way we wish they could be. But, in the meantime, I take solace in these words by the apostle Paul: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation …” (Philippians 4:11-12).

In the ongoing Christian balancing act, this statement comforts me. I hope it will for you, as well.

[1] https://etools.vomusa.org/a/vombm/viewasweb/vom_bulk_email_201703_01_web.html

[2] Ibid.