In the foyer of the church is a little box with the simple label, “You Asked for It.” It is a box where people put in their questions about God, religion, Bible passages and anything else that pops up in their journey of faith. Once a year we take all of these questions, sort them out and spend a few months preaching through them in church. So, this summer, we are preaching through questions that people have put in this box. There is a wide range of questions from, “Why are their so many religions?”, “How can I deal with worry?”, and “What does God want from me?” This week the question we are discussing is, “Why is there so much suffering?”. Very apropos. One of the results of suffering in our lives is that it strips off the excess and brings clarity. How many people have we seen who get caught up in chasing the dollar at the expense of family, but when their tower of cards comes crashing down, they realize what is really important?
For those of us planting churches and pastoring churches, the events of the past few months have led to not a small amount of suffering for us and our congregations. All of the planning and preparation put into this year is out the window. Every time I plan some way forward, a government rule, regulation or restriction bars our way. We struggle financially, because many people have lost their jobs. Not to mention those who have lots loved ones and those close to them. It is frustrating.
Yet, in our frustration and suffering, God brings clarity. There is no government law, no economic downturn or medical epidemic that can stop us from being THE CHURCH. Closing a building does not stop us from being the church. Having us meet in smaller groups does not stop us from being THE CHURCH. When we strip it all away, WE are the church. In Bulgaria, WE will continue to share hope in a world full of worry and uncertainty. We fight against anxiety with the words of Jesus, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” WE are the church.