lent 2013 001bAs servants of God we are commended by our endurance and hardships; ill-treated and disrespected yet having everything.

(2 Corinthians chapter 6 verses 4, 8 & 10, paraphrase)

I am already beginning to wish I had chosen “nicer” readings. Hardships, ill-treatment and disrespect are hardly cheerful themes. Where is the joy of the Lord in those? Well, it is the Epistle reading for today in the BCP (Book of Common Prayer 1662) so let’s look at it.

So we are commended by our hardships, are we? Not exactly. By our endurance and hardships. We are not being told to tell everyone how tough life has been to us and expect that to automatically mean we are superior to other people. Hardships might mean we need a helping hand, some give and take from others as we do our best with the hand that life has dealt us. Our endurance during difficult times though, that is another matter. The way we bear hardship – without lashing out at others or manipulating people with a hard luck story – speaks volumes about our character. It does not mean we can’t ask for help – we just shouldn’t blackmail people for it (emotionally or otherwise).

The problem I have with endurance personally is that it is not a quick fix – you have to keep on enduring and that is jolly hard work! And one problem we have with the above quote is that it is taken out of context. Paul and his companions have been suffering for the sake of the gospel and know full well that God is with them, strengthening them, inspiring (in all senses of that word) them, loving them. Because he has a strong sense of God’s greatness, Paul has a different perspective on the ill-treatment and disrespect flung his way.

That’s where one phrase in the prayer below appeals to me: as God knows our weakness so may we know God’s power to save.

A collect from “Common Worship”

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Lent 1)