Religion Magazine

Honour the Struggle

By Marilyngardner5 @marilyngard

I’m sitting with a younger friend in my home. It’s warm and we are talking over hot drinks. She and I share so much in terms of our background. Both raised in Pakistan. Both went to Murree, our beloved  boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountain Range. Both have parents who live out their faith in extraordinary joy and grace. And both of us struggled on leaving the country, the school, the people behind, embarking on a journey in our passport countries.

We talk about faith and doubt and life. And I relay to her what my priest said to me while I was working through the process of becoming Orthodox. “We Orthodox honor the struggle.” he said. “We believe that the struggle is worth going through, the battle is worth fighting.”

Honour the struggle.

The video of 21 Coptic Christians being martyred on the beach in Tripoli, Libya showed men in orange proclaiming the name of Jesus even as they knew this breath would be their last.

Honour the struggle.

A brother of two of the men killed that day thanks ISIS for allowing that part of the film to be shown. Thanks ISIS for not cutting that part, but allowing him to see his brothers proclaim the name of Jesus.

Honour the struggle.

A news report verifying that 150 Christians from an Assyrian village in northeast Syria have been abducted, taken away in early morning raids by ISIS. Men, women, and children — all kidnapped by people who hate what they stand for.

Honour the struggle. 

It all seems too much. How can we honor this? Is it really worth it? Is faith worth dying for? Or maybe the bigger question for many of us – is faith worth living for? A colleague I saw yesterday who is Jewish by ethnicity, but self describes as one without a formal faith, challenges my skepticism when she says “I wish I could believe! Then maybe it would make it better.”

In my desperation at working this through, I turn to the Psalms. The Psalmist sees people with no scruples getting rich and powerful off the backs of the faithful, he sees oppression and injustice with no consequences and he cries out in frustration and anger:

For I was envious of the arrogant
  As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For there are no pains in their death,
  And their body is fat.

They are not in trouble as other men,
  Nor are they plagued like mankind.

Therefore pride is their necklace;
  The garment of violence covers them.

Their eye bulges from fatness;
  The imaginations of their heart run riot.

They mock and wickedly speak of oppression;
  They speak from on high.

They have set their mouth against the heavens,
  And their tongue parades through the earth.

Therefore his people return to this place,
  And waters of abundance are drunk by them.

They say, “How does God know?
  And is there knowledge with the Most High?”

Behold, these are the wicked;
  And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
  And washed my hands in innocence;

For I have been stricken all day long
  And chastened every morning.

If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
  Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.

When I pondered to understand this,
  It was troublesome in my sight

He is thinking exactly what I’m thinking - is it worth it? Is this life of faith worth pursuing? As I watch ISIS continue to take over territory, to kill and kidnap? As I watch unscrupulous people thrive in money and fame. But the writer doesn’t end with the pondering. He ends in the sanctuary of God.

Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
  Then I perceived their end.

Until he comes back to God, until he comes into the sanctuary of God – only then can he rest, only then is he comforted, only then does he see the big picture. Only then can he really honor the struggle. 

*********

A month later my friend comes to visit again. As we drink tea she shows me the words she had tattooed on her forearm since our last conversation: “Honour the struggle.” Engraved as a constant reminder that it is indeed worth it.

honour the struggle

*All verses taken from Psalm 73: 3-17; 25


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