I haven’t received a word from the Lord, but it seems to me like profound changes for the worse may be about to happen across the whole of the western world. Legitimate brutal persecution of believers in the United States (and all of western Europe) would seem to be within clear sight. I’m finding myself dealing with intense anxiety at the thought of it, but also being hopeful in prayer and more determined than ever to maintain my testimony in Jesus. I just question the reactions and thoughts of my heart perhaps to an unnecessary degree. I absolutely do not want to shrink away when/if that test comes.
Others of you across the world have already been through this, so any encouraging words/advice/ prayer from our brothers and sisters who know those things personally would be most welcome. My sincere prayer for us all is that He will keep us from stumbling and to maintain with joy and unflinching confidence our testimonies of His reality in the face of the most brutal of persecution.
I definitely see you have a big heart for the Western world and for God’s children abroad and amidst these tumultuous seas of life.
Your shoulders aren’t the only ones that are carrying concern for the U.S.A. and other similar regions. Even Jeremiah the Prophet faced similar feelings for his own people. His heart yearned to see his own people turn to the LORD before it was too late. I know the LORD takes delight in seeing His children, globally, share similar things to what you desire, in regards to being so determined to let the mounting pressures of life only press you closer to the LORD, as you live a life that testifies of Who He is.
As you probably understand, the history of societies and nations point towards a God Who’s power and love far surpass the clouds of evil below. Early seekers of God saw Him come through so miraculously, in the intensity of their day in age; such as Moses, Esther, David, and Joseph. Their lives were not easy ones at all! I think of the Heros of the Faith that so many of us Christians admire; and many—if not all of them—did their most “famous” and God-given missions in the face of hardship. Their God is our God and He hasn’t changed.
Why is the tea flavor stronger when in hotter water? Why is the light brighter when placed in darker areas? Why does a tree grow stronger by storm clouds and rain? Why is there beautiful music when the instrument’s string is continually agitated by the consistent rubbing of the bow? Why can a flower blossom forth in fragrance when a bug has “messed up” the structure of its inner being? And why does someone feel the warmth of another more prevalently when “confined” to the loving embrace of the other person?
Why would someone begin to think that they don’t need God, when everything is going smooth? Why do many seem to grow lukewarm in their walk with the Father when everything is “perfect”? Why would God allow things to take place that call for people to see He is the ultimate King? How would we know that He is the Master of the wind if there was no wind?
That is a beautiful prayer. I think of the verses in 1 John 4:16-18 KJV:
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
If perfect love casts out fear and God is love, would that imply that the perfect God can and wants to cast out our fear? I take such comfort in this truth.
Whatever our physical eyes gaze upon is what’s reflected within the eye. I think about how that could easily be applied to our spiritual gaze. The waves were reflected in the Apostle Peter’s gaze in Matthew 14:22-33, and Peter began to sink. Yet, later, we see Peter boldly preaching the Gospel of the risen Savior, as his focus was on his Lord. Thus, the dynamic work of God was spread abroad throughout the world because of it. The perfect God (the perfect Love) cast out his fear and great things were done and are still being done globally because of it. The truth is…
God alone (Who is Love in the finest form) can ultimately cast out fear.
Where is our focus? Where is our spiritual gaze? If the physical eye reflects that which it looks upon, would it be possible that God (Our perfect Love) wants to cleanse our fearful eyes from blurred and distorted vision, so He could be radiantly reflected and His love spread abroad? If our hearts’ gazes are fixed upon Him and meditating in His Word (which is a daily decision to make), our hearts could be cleansed and nourished, and God would be glorified and magnified…
“that the world may know…” John 17:23
Here are a few links that might be of an encouragement:
The following link leads to a video that Nabeel Qureshi did. I don’t know if you have seen it already. But the points he make, in regards to when our focus and purpose have dynamic impact in our world, are very thought provoking! Hope it helps.
@BretG - I can relate to what you are saying as it is imperative for us to experience life without anxiety, fear, and doubts. Faith is beautifully defined in Hebrews as the Substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen. If that word is true then anxiousness is sometimes due to the lack of trust in the Lord and sometimes you can also say that you are experiencing a crisis of your faith. Proverbs 12:25 says that An Anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
I would suggest you meditate on David Psalms 42:5 "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior, and my God.
I will also pray for you to experience the peace of God in your heart. Also pray for God to give you the strength to overcome the challenges that you experience using the verses from the Book of Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26, 3:5, 3:12, 3:21
Thank you for replying @ChristinaLinzey and @samshankar. I was mainly wondering if it’s a normal reaction to be apprehensive at the thought of being tortured and/or imprisoned when those things are actually an upcoming possibility. On my way in to work tonight James 1:2-4 came to mind:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
and then a little further down at verse 12:
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
It may not come to such things, but when “Equality vs. Equity” is a goal of a certain group’s political platform that doesn’t bode well. That is right out of Karl Marx’s ideology, a.k.a. communism.
I do not live in the ‘western’ world and yet I am also worried at the way things are moving all across the world - towards a nationalistic, atheistic, jingoistic, possibly dictatorial mindset in many countries. So is it normal to worry and feel anxious? I think it is a normal human emotion in the given circumstances. And yet, we are called not to be anxious. It is a bit like walking on water - almost impossible! And yet it is possible in Christ; which is why James gives the exhortation that you quoted. The early Christians lived in much more difficult and trying times, compared to what we are in now, and in the midst of these situations, they were called to be joyful and not be anxious. Peter says the same in his epistles and John says the same in Revelation. And the witness of history and of the Bible is that many were peaceful and fearless because of their faith in Christ in the midst of tribulation, and much heart-rending loss, which was a witness to those who observed them.
In my understanding, the Christian life is impossible by our own ‘normal’ capacities. It is possible only with the help of Christ and the continual dependence on the Holy Spirit who lives within. By ourselves it is impossible to live this way, which is why Christ came to save us. With His help we can. Yes, it is difficult, but it is possible. We may fail, but He is there is pick us up as he picked up Peter who sank into the water. Jesus himself, in an expression of his humanity was sorrowful and asked that the cup of suffering be taken away from him if possible, but yielded his will to the Father’s.
I believe we are heading for troubling times and it is easy to be troubled and anxious. The only way to peace is to believe in Christ and his promises, staying or remaining in Him in fellowship with Him and having His word remaining in us. For the truth is this - Christ is going to win in the end and there is going to be a better world but first things will get pretty awful. In this situation, let us not flay ourselves for being anxious but at the same time be vigilant that we do not allow our hearts to be troubled.
John 16:33 - “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart (be of good cheer)! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)
John 14:1 - Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God.
Isaiah 26:3 - You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast (stayed on Him), because he trusts in you.
A pastor I had decades ago (he moved away from my city) loved the book of Habakkuk. Here is a verse that he would often quote to us from Habakkuk:
" I heard, and my inner parts trembled; At the sound, my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble; Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will attack us. Even if the fig tree does not blossom, And there is no fruit on the vines, If the yield of the olive fails, and the fields produce no food, Even if the flock disappears from the fold, And there are no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will triumph in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And he has made my feet like deer’s feet, And has me walk on my high places." (2:16-19)
I understand what you are referring to. And the answer is yes, it is very natural and very common to feel such things🙏 To be upfront with you, I am probably at least one of the top 500 people in the world that can tend to fret about these kinds of things😬 We are still in the physical world, in physical bodies, and naturally we share the desire for life and peace to be predominant.
Oppression in any aspect of life is not what God designed; therefore, it goes against each designed creature’s nature. Frankly, it is difficult. Even Jesus, our Emmanuel (God with us)—the One Who was perfect and more powerful than any other force—asked for the cup of suffering to be passed from Him (Matthew 26:39). If Jesus’ own sweat were as great drops of blood, because of the intense agony that was taking place and would continue to come through His sacrificial love (Luke 22:44), how much more does He understand how we feel in the overwhelming thoughts and circumstances that may lead to our final moments, as weak and frail mankind. He knows we are all but dust (Psalms 103:14 KJV).
The verses you @BretG mentioned are so comforting. What amazes me is how the Lord was so loving that He didn’t neglect the fact that being a true Christian would require sacrifice physically, emotionally, or ideologically. Yet, He assures us that He has already claimed the victory through His own suffering (John 16:33, 1 John 4:4)!
It is all easier to say then to actually walk through. Anybody knows that. David in many of his Psalms is an example. Many of his Psalms were written as heart cries to the LORD for mercy in majorly distressing times…in times where he was literally hiding for his life, not knowing the complete outcome. And he was considered a man after God’s own heart It gives someone like me hope when I see these kinds of witnesses who have gone on before, who now are in eternal glory and peace! (Hebrews 12:1-3 KJV)
May we each daily set our gaze on the Great Shepherd, as He leads us through these intense valleys, deserts, and mountains to glory forevermore.
Side note: Isaiah 40:31–If God’s children across the board didn’t face weariness in hardship and discouragement in distressing times, these kinds of Scripture passages may not have needed to be written. There is a reason why there are so many more comforting passages of God’s Word like this. Because He knew His children globally would need them throughout history.
A very pertinent question for our time, @BretG! And good answers you’ve received so far.
I would only add that that anxiety about a dark future is not necessarily betraying a lack of faith. Even Christ sweated drops of blood as He contemplated the impending crucifixion. But as He prayed for the cup to pass, He also prayed, Not my will but Thine be done.
I often hear people say that living by faith means living in spite of our circumstances. But I’m not sure that’s entirely true.
In II Kings 6, when Elisha was on the rooftop with his servant, and the Syrian army was surrounding their city, the young servant despaired when he saw the circumstances surrounding them.
But Elisha did not despair at all. Why? Did he not see their enemies tightening their ring around the city? Of course he did. But he was not at peace despite his circumstances, but rather because of them.
You see, his faith showed him a whole other set of circumstances that his servant was blind to. But as soon as the prophet prayed for the young man’s eyes to be opened, he suddenly saw what Elisha had seen - chariots of fire round about the city protecting them!
God’s people live above the waves of their earthly circumstances when their faith focuses on things above, not on things of this earth - Colossians 3:2. That’s what enables them to pick up their cross and follow saying, Not my will, but Thine be done.
Our spirits are just as affected by circumstances as any lost person’s. The only difference is that our faith reveals a whole other set of overriding circumstances!
Something I can add to the last amazing answers is that ancient church members felt scared about persecution but their confidence was that when suffering will come Jesus will be their support. We do a good thing when we learn about their example. Felicitas was a young woman who had to pass through martyrdom and when the guardians told her that she won’t resist suffering, she replied:
“But there will be another who will suffer for me because I have to suffer for Him.”
Also, I think this video is so helpful in this topic, it brings me a lot of peace:
Hi @BretG, I was encouraged to read your question and the supporting answers that followed - thank you to everyone for sharing scriptural encouragement. You have voiced worries that I have also experienced very recently (and I believe many others will experience in these challenging times). I believe that anxiety is a natural human emotion and although the Bible tells us not to be anxious - Philippians 4:6-7 - I don’t think it is commanding us to suppress our natural emotions but rather not to let them rule us. This should be true of all our emotions. This is where our minds and hearts need to dwell on the word rather than our circumstances. I don’t mean that we bury our head in the sand - quite the contrary - but we spend the greater proportion our of our time studying God’s truth rather than the human condition around us.
I listened to this talk recently from Mike Winger, a YouTube Bible teacher. You may find it helpful as you process these thoughts and wrestle through what God is asking you to dwell on and how to respond in the right way. The video title refers to depression and sadness but Mike spends some time chatting through anxiety, what the Bible says about it, and how we are to respond when we inevitably experience this feeling. About 18 minutes in, he talks about how God’s peace guards our hearts and minds when the anxiety arises. He takes a look at that Philippians passage I mentioned above and explores what it all means. He discusses our thought life and what we are to dwell on in these moments of difficulty.
Finally, I want to share what I was reading about this week: I have been looking at the figure of Patrick (he became known as a saint), a British Celt from sometime in the 4th-5th centuries AD. When he was 16, he was kidnapped by Irish slave traders and taken to Ireland to herd cattle. He seemed to develop an intense prayer life whilst in captivity. In his Confession, he writes:
But after I had come to Ireland I daily used to feed cattle, and I prayed frequently during the day; the love of God and the fear of Him increased more and more, and faith became stronger, and the spirt was stirred; so that one day I said about a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same; so that I used even to remain in the woods and in the mountains; before daylight I used to rise to prayer, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm; nor was there any slothfulness in me, as I now perceive, because the spirt was then fervent within me.
I share this because it really struck me this week how a life of prayer will impact whatever circumstances we find our selves in. It draws our gaze back to our Father and Creator, and away from our own circumstances. It reminds us of the hope that we are assured of in scripture, and prepares our heart where the peace of God can truly surpass all understanding. I pray that you may find some encouragement in this as I have done this week.
Your concerns are very normal and if you are a believer who is not paying attention to the world and what we see happening, then you should be more concerned about a lack of attention to your life. It seems to me you are NOT like that but in fact caring and concerned.
There is no doubt we are moving into more troubled and challenging times in the world. The IMF wants to “reset” the global economy and use the COVID 19 problem to be grounds for change. One of their aims is to refocus on “nature” and climate exchange is being used as the tool to justify the changes the IMF wants to make. Roman 1 has a bit to say about worshipping the creation rather than the creator.
I can only say that in these times we need to be focussed on Christ now more than ever. The old supports of freedom loving and supporting governments, honest economic practices, respect for private property, respect for freedom in beliefs systems and so on are ALL going. We should not trust in these supports as they will not deliver. They must come to pass as these times are prophesied to happen. When these things begin, we are told to look up for our deliverance is at hand. Being concerned about these changes that are obvious to see, is in itself not wrong. Our faith will be tested indeed but the fact that you ask the questions and show concern tells me you are focussed. All of us will be tested and if honest, we will all be shaken somewhat. Our walk and faith is not one of perfection. We do get faulted and we do mess up at times. The issue not to stay fallen or in failure mode, but to exercise by getting back up when we are weak. Get up in Him and dust off the doubts and failures. King David failed a lot but He is a friend of God because he always got back up and sought the Lord. We are to be the same. Yes, our faith will get knocked about. That is not the issue. It is whether or not you will get refocussed on Christ and trust Him. You are in a battle, a spiritual battle and in battle you get injured.
The world has to fall away and go its own way. That is where we are in history. Consider these events that we see are in fact confirmation of the reliability of Scripture, of our Lords Word to us, of the correctness of Faith in Him rather than world systems. As difficult as it is to see these changes unfold, it is a sign of our future life being prepared for us… Remember Christ said in John 14: 2-3, “Behold in my Fathers house are many mansions, and I go to prepare a place for you” Please read it yourself in your own Bible.
My point is that these things we see are to occur and none of us like it. But we have a God who has planned for us in spite of these things and He controls history, not mankind or the fallen realm. We will all be tested and we all have doubts and second guess ourselves on occasion. Every believer in the Bible had the same struggles at times so you and I are no different. All the believers in Hebrewws 11, often called the heroes of Faith, all failed at various times. They are not listed because of failures, but how they got back up and walked with God in Spite of trials and challenging circumstances. Hope this helps.