If you have listened to the news at all this past year you will have heard something about the crisis in Syria and Iraq involving the militant Islamic group ISIS and their genocide against Christians. The atrocities they have committed in the name of their god are so evil, they are not fit to print.
But it is not only in Syria and Iraq that Christians and religious minorities are suffering because of their faith, but in Nigeria this past May the militant Islamic group Boko Haram kidnapped 300 school girls to sell them into slavery. Despite pressure from the international community the girls were never returned or recovered.
And it is not only under militant Islam but also under militant Hinduism that Christians are persecuted. After the Hindu Nationalist Party won the election in India this year, Christians have faced increased persecution from their Hindu neighbors.
North Korea, however, continues to be the most difficult place for Christians to live. Under an atheistic regime which makes gods of its political leaders, Christians, if discovered, are forced into labor camps and/or executed as enemies of the state.
With such horrific things happening to the church around the world, how do we read such verses as Romans 8:28? We know that all things work together for good to those who love God...? Not some things, but all. That means even the evil things, God intends for good. Remember Joseph in Egypt--you meant it for evil but God meant it for good (see Genesis 50). But do we really believe this?
As western believers we do not tend to have a good theology of suffering. But almost the entire New Testament was written in the context of suffering. Jesus and His disciples faced persecution from the Jewish leaders, the early apostles faced persecution from the Jewish leaders, and eventually the Church faced persecution from the Roman government. Early Christians knew what it was like to suffer for their faith. They came to understand that this was what they were called to do--suffer with CHRIST. Really, if you think about it, it isn't strange that Christians suffer so much in other parts of the world. What is strange is that we suffer so little.
Honestly, I do not know how to pray for my brothers and sisters. I have no idea what they are going through. But...God knows. Jesus knows. The Spirit knows. Not only is the Spirit interceding for them and for us, but He also helps us to pray. Let us ask God to teach us how to pray for our brothers and sisters under persecution. It is the one thing they ask of us. When we need prayer, be sure they'll be praying for us.