Our friend, Andre Furmanov, from Vyborg Christian Church in Vyborg, Russia (near the Finnish border), wrote a very thoughtful and encouraging newletter this week about suffering. We would like to share it with you with his permission.
This is not a typical news letter. Rather a few shorts shared with you in the documents attached. [See below this part of the letter.]
During Lent I reread the book by one of my favorite authors, Randy Alcorn “IF GOD IS GOOD” about the problem of suffering in the world. Right around Easter I received a precious gift from a very dear friend from England, who sent me a book that she had written called “WHY?” dwelling on the same issue of of pain and suffering. It is some HEAVY (read – EMOTIONAL) kind of reading, which, I have to confess, I seem to enjoy (No, I am not afraid to use this word in relation to the topic). Reading about suffering and taking part in daily life situations that involves such, we do grow and mature. Through all the trials the Lord seems to prepare us as a church and me as a person for reaching out to a greater number of people, but in the first place to be a reflection of His light through daily choices, acting joyfully and living out His peace that surpasses all understanding …..
In his wonderful epistle James shares a very well known thought: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
I could not help but share with you some of the thoughts on the matter, which happened to be more relevant than ever….they will not be many…. I did not want to overwhelm you. But I am sure some of you are going through serious pain and suffering even as we speak. Please, be encouraged, all of this has a meaning and a purpose, and there is a way which will help you see the light and become victors in any situation, any seemingly impossible circumstances.
Love to all of you.
Andre (for the whole family, too)
Our church had had a 40 days fast and prayer chain before this year’s Easter celebration, during which we read and discussed the book by Randy Alcorn, “IF GOD IS GOOD”, about the problem of suffering in the world. Having learned about suffering theoretically we ended up putting our knowledge to practice. Thus it was not a surprise that various trials began to fall on our congregation as spring rain or even more like summer shower.
In the course of a month several drastic things happened shook us up quite a bit – there was a fire in the house of one of the church families, as the result of which many life-sustaining articles were lost, a family who adopted a child from an orphanage learned the very same day that the husband had melanoma and chances of him staying alive were 50/50. A father of one of the men in our church, who we tried to witness to for years was diagnosed with cancer and died but a few weeks later. A lady who had just given birth to a baby had a bad case of mastitis and returned back to the hospital leaving the newborn to her husband’s care. Several men were going out of business and a number of church people lost their jobs due to unexpected job cuts. The list of struggles can be continued. We look at the evil and suffering in the world – horrifying events as the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the scope of pain feels overwhelming.
As humans we avoid pain and suffering tending to run away from things that hurt. It’s too much to take in. However, God’s eyes roam the earth. Nothing escapes His attention. He hears the cries of His people. He is not distant and unfeeling. He is a God who is near and is compassionate. He describes Himself to us through Scripture. “The Lord is gracious and righteous; …. full of compassion.” Psalm 116:5 Our problem is that we tend to move from ignorance about suffering to being paralyzed by it. When we start looking at the same pain that God does, we are likely to discover that it’s astounding. It’s humbling. It’s too much. We often don’t know what to do and so, we do nothing because it’s all so overwhelming. Yet, even though it is so difficult and painful, we should care about those, who are suffering. Why? Because if Jesus cares, we should too. That simple.
It is amazing how much closer to the Lord we have become as a church during the past month and a half. The congregation manifested love through amazing acts of care for those in need. Nadya and I were overwhelmed with everyone’s readiness to bless those who needed finances, encouragement, kind words and help. Many of our hours were spent at the bed of those dying, as we were giving comfort and shared the Gospel with them.
It was a very difficult but blessed time for all of us. And even though things have not got settled altogether still, we feel like we are ready for a new round of heated battles with the darkness. We as the church became stronger and more united in our desire to serve the One, who took upon Himself the suffering of the whole world.
Christian life seems to be full of paradoxes – even in the midst of trials and tribulation there is peace that surpasses all understanding, even death itself becomes the greatest gain while for many it remains the greatest enemy, the greatest loss. It all depends on what you do with Jesus.
The Gospel is good news, and the good news is that God’s Son died for our sins and rose again the third day to be our living Savior. Once we open your heart to Him, He gladly comes in to be our friend during this pilgrim journey on earth: and then one day, He will take His own to live with Him forever in Heaven.
We keep serving Him counting it all joy.
Andre, Nadya, Emily, Erika and Elsie