But Jesus predicts hardship
Matthew 24:7-14, 20, 25 Nation will go to war against nation … There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. … See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.
One reason Karis cites in her journals for wanting her story told is the prevalence in some places of a “health and wealth gospel,” the idea that if you have “enough” faith, God will make you prosperous and free of suffering. A message Jesus neither modeled nor taught. Karis reacted passionately against the implied judgment of this belief on many of her friends who were neither healthy nor wealthy but lived their lives of hardship in deep faith and joy in God’s love for them, measured not in gifts of the world but in gifts of the heart.
One time when Karis was hospitalized as a teenager, suffering from uncontrollable diarrhea and dehydration that led to several months on TPN (nutrition through her blood stream), “chained,” as she said, to an IV pump, a woman we didn’t know showed up in her hospital room. The woman told me she had crossed Brazil by bus to deliver a message from God to Karis. She then turned to Karis, who was too weak at the time to stand, and demanded she confess her sins of unbelief, get out of that bed, and live the triumphant life of faith. “You are a disgrace to the Gospel and to God,” she shouted at Karis. “Shame on you! Shame on your family, pretending to be ministers of the Lord. Look at you, wasting resources on hospitals and machines and medicines. Unbelievers! This money should go to the churches!”
She walked over to Karis and yanked her arm. “Down on your knees now, you hypocritical sinner! Confess your unbelief! Then stand up and walk and end this charade!”
By then, of course, I was loosening the woman’s grip on Karis and escorting her to the door. “I have been obedient! I have delivered God’s message! The rest is up to you!” She was still shouting as I closed the door and ran to Karis, who heaved with sobs.
Later, when she was stronger, Karis spoke to me about the woman’s visit, with an intensity I had not seen in her before. “Mama,” she said, “that woman blasphemed my Lord. I can’t bear it.” She began crying again. “It’s not what she said about me—I can handle that. I know I need to grow in faith, especially in faith to trust him when I’m weak and in pain. It’s what she said about who God is, as if he hasn’t walked with me and loved me and comforted me and provided for me with such gentle tenderness all my life. As if his words to me every day—words of love and encouragement—are not true. That hurt me to my core. Mama, please don’t let such a thing happen again. I can’t bear it. It’s like a sword piercing my heart.”
Then her smile broke out. “Maybe that woman doesn’t know about the thousands of people praying for me around the world. They can’t all be as deficient in faith as us, right?” She giggled. “Well, I’m in cahoots with God. From now on, I’m going to pray for God to heal whatever has wounded her. I’m going to pray she can know how extravagantly her Father loves her.”
Perhaps in Heaven Karis has been privileged to know the result of her prayers for this woman whose name we never learned. Lord, if she’s still alive, please care for her.
Reading Matthew 24—which sounds all too sadly familiar, doesn’t it?—this is what caught my attention. “Many will turn away from me … and the love of many will grow cold.”
Love God and love each other (John 13:34-35). Isn’t that Jesus’ central message? A direct contrast to “betray and hate each other.”
When we turn toward Jesus, our love for him and for people grows. When we turn away from Jesus, the natural consequence is hatred and slander.
Let’s turn toward Jesus. Whatever the circumstances of our lives.