Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. NIV
Did you know that more than 200 million Christians in more than 60 countries are suffering in one way or another because of their faith in Jesus Christ? They are labelled as spies, considered disloyal, and called all sorts of names as a way of inciting hatred against them. They suffer discrimination, persecution, imprisonment and, in all too many cases, death. Even as I write this, thousands of Christians are in prison or toiling in harsh labour camps because of their faith.
I read a story about an old woman who had suffered much persecution and had lost her husband and her only son. She was so ill she could not walk. Still, her face was shining with the peace of God. On a wall near her bed, she had painted the words, “Hallelujah anyway!”
What a testimony of faith and commitment to the Lord! To Christians in many of these countries, Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24) is not a rhetorical statement but a daily reality. And gladly they take up their cross and follow after Him.
How they inspire me, and shame me too. I have it so much easier than them. I have never had to suffer for my faith and yet, so often, I take my faith for granted. When things get tough, when challenging situations come my way, I complain and mumble about my situation, about my struggles, about my needs.
That old lady helps put things in perspective, doesn’t she? And if people like her, in spite of all she has had to endure, can say, “Hallelujah anyway,” so can we.
What about you? What are you going through today? Are you sick in body? Are you facing a difficult time or going through a tough situation? Can you lift up your heart and your head and shout that defiant cry, “Hallelujah anyway!”?
It is a statement to the world that no matter what happens, we will not stop believing, not stop trusting in Jesus.
As Paul, no stranger to trial and persecution, said, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Our brothers and sisters of the suffering church are our great cloud of living witnesses who encourage us to press on, to keep going, to stand fast, to hold firm in our faith. Let us also cheer them onwards by praying for them, helping them and honouring them by writing “Hallelujah anyway!” on our hearts, in the midst of whatever we are called to go through, wherever we are at.