As Christians, We Are Called To Do The Hard Things

Thursday, August 04, 2016

As Christians, we are called to do the difficult things. This is truth, not opinion. 

This past few weeks we have witnessed horrific acts of terrorism. The culmination of these events was the beheading (or throat slitting - accounts vary) of a Roman Catholic priest in France. In speaking about this with a friend, on social media, I stated:

"I think this is how he would wish to die: truthfully, as horrific as it is, as Christians, we should all wish to die kneeling at the altar. As a Catholic, this would be of the highest honor. We don't teach our children the stories of the martyrs any longer, because we are safe.... 

They need to know Christianity isn't about cute animals on Noah's ark and God gifting you a Ferrari because you tithe. We were literally called to the cross."

I hold this to be a valid truth. We are ultimately called to suffering, not prosperity. 

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. ~ 2 Timothy 3:12

This was roundly refuted - some were horrified I would take this stance. Yet I hold fast to it. We are not called for wealth and prosperity. We are called to a cross which promises much grief in this alien place. This is a Christianity which most people choose to ignore, in favor of a feel-good religious system which has very little to do with the reality of the faith.

While it may not seem to have anything to do with facing a complicated pregnancy, it has everything to do with it.

As Christians, we are called to do the hard things, even when the world is telling us we must do something else. Even when the world gives us an out, an "easier way". Even when the world tells us the hard things aren't really what God wants for us.

In the decision whether or not to continue a pregnancy after a poor prenatal diagnosis (or after a sexual assault, or even when you just can't afford another child/need to finish school/whatever), the mental anguish of the mother is always posited as the most important issue by those who would encourage her to end her pregnancy. 

I don't agree: the most important issue facing a woman dealing with a complicated pregnancy is whether the child she carries is a human being, deserving of equal rights. If so, then no amount of suffering on the mother's part is grounds for ending a pregnancy.

I generally don't write about "choice" in the matter of continuing a pregnancy with complications. Too many pro-life people out there share their opinions regarding "mother-health" without any regard for the trauma this situation inflicts on its victim (whether they choose termination or not). There's an anguish which many pro-life persons choose to ignore when a baby has been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Women who choose life in these circumstances are often put on pedestals, without any regard to the real pain they are feeling.  I've also always chosen to avoid even the slightest hint that the choice to continue a pregnancy may be done as some sort of "martyrdom", because this only fuels the pro-choice fires on this subject, making it all about a mother allowing her child to suffer for her benefit.

My focus has always (and I believe, appropriately) been on the rights of the child as an individual human being. As such, any ulterior motive on a mother faced with this situation is irrelevant. In other words, because the child is an individual, a mother's choice isn't part of the equation.

But today, I'd like to focus solely on mom. 

When we learned our Beatrix would not live for very long after birth, even my pro-life husband gave me the "out" of termination. I've heard stories of ministers and priests telling mothers it would be acceptable for a woman to end a pregnancy where an anomaly is detected. Many major church bodies have exceptions to their abortion stances.

All of these exceptions, personal and religious, are given in hopes of lessening the grief of a mother -- a mother who instinctively understands her place as her child's ultimate protector, and a mother who will grieve just as deeply (if not more deeply) when she terminates her pregnancy.

All of these exceptions are given in an effort to help women avoid the hard things. 

But is this what we are supposed to be doing? 

Are we, as Christians, called to avoid the hard parts of life? And honestly -- when does ending a pregnancy ever help women avoid the hard parts? 

When we direct the destruction of an innocent human being how is it ever a good thing?

As pro-life as I am, I'm not even arguing against abortion in general here: I'm arguing against Christians encouraging other Christians to abort disabled, preborn children. I'm arguing against Christians encouraging families to eschew the hard parts. 

As Christians, how do we approach the pain of finding out our child's life may be brief? How do we do this hard thing? How do we encourage others to accept this hard thing in their lives, and to understand it will all be to the glory of God? How do we help others see their travails as gifts from a God who invites us to partake in the most intimate of communions with him: the suffering of the cross? 

While I am not trying to make carrying to term some type of saintly activity, I would argue that in bending ourselves to God's alien will in this instance, no matter what the cost to ourselves, we perform the most intimate acts of faith: we partake of the bitterness directly promised to us as believers. We acknowledge the sinful nature of man, and because we choose to honor God with our suffering, we make something beautiful out of it. When we sacrifice our time for someone who has no ability to appreciate it, we are practicing the most blatant charity towards our neighbor.

So why are we so quick to put away the hard things? 

Why are we so quick to bend to the world's opinion that ending our suffering is the ultimate goal?

What if enduring suffering is the goal? What if accepting and cherishing our child, unconditionally, is the goal? 

What if our experience is a gift?

No one says we should seek out painful experiences. 

No one says a woman should like this, or embrace this with no anger or frustration in her heart. 

No one says we should work towards any type of "martyrdom". It doesn't work this way, in Christianity. 

But accepting and understanding our circumstances through the lens of the cross -- this is what Christianity is all about. In accepting the fallacy of the world's ideas regarding frailty and society's propensity to avoid pain at all costs as being the antithesis of what Christ was trying to teach us from the Cross, we come to a richer understanding of what will come to be: a place where there will be "no more death' or mourning or crying or pain" {Rev 4:21}. We come to a richer understanding of this place as a temporary resting place, a stop along the way to our journey home. 

And about this believing in a savior who suffered the hard things -- the hardest thing of all -- taking on the sin of the entire world. He tells me we should always choose to emulate His actions, even though we will never come close to His holiness, and even when our actions lead us to places where we think we don't want to follow. We are not to look to our reward in this life, but the next. We are to do the hard things, and offer them up as sacrifices and present them to His glory alone. 

This, then, is why I believe this priest would have chosen to die at the altar: because he would have understood his life to be a witness to Christ's suffering, and the emulation of this suffering in his own death, will only result in God being glorified. 

This, then, is why I believe Christians should never, ever encourage a woman to choose termination over loving her child to life no matter how long her child lives: because her suffering is a testament to the graciousness of God who carried all of our suffering onto His cross. His pain and suffering ensures her future reunion with her child, and her witness to trusting him can only bring more people to believe in His goodness. 

In both situations, the Glory of God is shown in humbling born of intense suffering. 

This, then, is what it means to be Christian: to welcome the prospect of giving a reason for our hope, no matter the conditions or cost. {1 Peter 3:15}

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