Recently I ran across a social media post about how the church in Afghanistan is ready “to gather and die.” I liked the post, shared it, agreed with it, found it powerful, and went on about my day.
A couple of Sundays later, I skipped church and stayed home to organize the playroom. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I was just a momma taking time to do something great for my home and kids. Right?
Then, while searching on social media for a picture, I stumbled on the original post about Afghan believers.
I cannot think of a better way to put it except that I felt $#!++y.
I started thinking about how here in the USA (or my household), we will gather too, as long as… we aren’t out of town, don’t have sports, didn’t drink too much wine the night before, our house is clean, the playroom is organized (ouch), etc…you get the picture.
Suddenly, the famous words of Maya Angelou were screaming in my mind. “Do better, Stef. Do Better.” After a time of prayer and putting myself back together, I realized I needed a healthy dose of reality. Not just for myself but as a citizen of the world.
A quick google search gave me pause. Check out these numbers:
In just the last year*, there have been:
- Over 360 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
- 5,898 Christians died for their faith at the hands of unbelievers
- 5,110 churches and other Christian buildings attacked
- 4,765 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned
“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.” – James 1:2-4
The sacrifices of the disciples such as James and Paul were not only 2,000 years ago. It still happens today.
The numbers shared above are heartbreaking and eye-opening. And yet, they do not tell the whole story. We see joy when we hear and work with Christians worldwide who suffer because they serve Jesus. God cares for His people, and He will never leave or forsake them. But, what about me? Is a messy playroom or missed alarm clock buzz a faith persevering test?
There are believers in other countries willing to die to gather with other believers to worship, learn, and grow in their faith. And, yet, I can allow stacks of toys (seriously?!) to get in my way. Does this stir up a long list of questions for you?
When I miss church, does God feel let down?
Am I a hypocrite for missing church?
Am I a lousy model for my children to keep that time sacred?
I don’t have answers to these questions, but I know a) God does not take attendance and b) worship can happen anywhere! So how do we find balance in this world? One conversation with the Father after another.
- How do we balance obedience with obligation?
- Grace with excuses?
- Correct priorities vs. our plans?
- Relationship vs. regulation?
- God’s will vs. our free will?
- Our freedom vs. other’s persecution?
I’ve come a long way in my walk, but if I am being honest, I have a lot to work through in order to find answers to these questions.
Today, I am so thankful for a Father who will allow us to ask all the questions, provide the opportunity for freedom, and meet for corporate worship, and I will not take it for granted. It is just too important!! I will continue to ask the hard questions, make time for the extracurricular activities important to my family’s growth, and inject God into all aspects of my life.
Thank you! Thank you for allowing me, if only for today, to have the chance to walk into my church with other believers and worship. Let me not take it for granted and bless those not afforded the same freedoms. But, they still have the faith to do it anyway. What heroes they are!