In Mali, Africa, Islamic militants take control of the economically unstable country forcing 400,000 civilians to flee. (www.bbc.co.uk)
The Syrian war between pro and anti-regime forces continues. There is little fuel and bread and some have not had any power for two months. Many families don't have enough money to flee the country, resulting in life in Internally Displaced Person Camps - many are dying. The United Nations World Food Program said they were unable to feed the millions needing help in Syria, as resources dwindle. (www.ntn24.com/news)
Economic crisis in Greece is forcing families to give up their children. They are no longer able to feed and clothe them. The numbers are increasing. In a country of 11 million, only 3.7 million have jobs. This is the country's sixth year in recession. (www.foxnews.com)
I have always believed that hardship is relative. When we experience our own tough times, it makes us more sensitive to others experiencing the same season in their life. If we haven't experienced something, we are more likely to be numb to it until we hit that hardship bump in our own life.
In Australia, we have a system set up to support those in hardship. Many countries do not. I often ask myself where Australia would be without this system. I often remember this to change my perspective while sitting in my local Centrelink office for an hour.
Many thousands of Australian families are in debt way over their heads with the idea that we all have to own the latest and greatest of material things. The televisions are getting bigger and lasting for less time, the refrigerators need to be big and silver with water and ice produced by the door, the cars need hotting up and trading in, the banks offer increases on credit cards and personal loans and there are those with a $120 a week (plus) alcohol and cigarette habit.
Yet they still expect and want more.
Some Australian families are genuinely facing situations they did not see coming. Situations and hardships which they were unable to be prepared for. Life changes forced by times of hardship or decisions that have been made that effectively require a change of lifestyle.
I don't think it's an understatement to declare that we all face hardships in our lives. The difficulty is accepting that some of these times are ordained by God for us to go through. And in response to that is the question of how we are to maintain peace, joy and soundness of mind.
In Acts chapter 21, Paul feels called to Jerusalem by God. Many people were offering ways of getting out of this potential hardship ahead - prophets, disciples and friends. People I think I would listen to!
He was potentially going to face arrest, torture, rejection and/or murder. Who of us would happily comply with that request from God?
Paul's response was, "Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it this harder for me? You're looking at all this backwards. The issue is not what they'll do to me, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience." Acts chapter 21 verse 13.
He continued to Jerusalem to fulfil the calling he had on his life at this time. Paul took on his hardship with passion and gusto. He could have wallowed in self-pity or injustice. But he drove through it with confidence.
Paul is hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, he is perplexed but not in despair, he is persecuted but not abandoned, he is struck down by the enemy but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians Chapter 4 Verses 8 and 9)
Paul was not only hunted down by hostile Jews, but when they caught up with him, they stirred up trouble. Paul was stoned, yet he lived.
Christian reaction to adversity tends to be, "Wow, they must have done something sinful" or "Grin and bear it!" or "If you need any help getting out of it...." or "I'll pray for you."
I know sometimes, I just want someone to cry with me.
Paul makes it clear that it is God's power and the life of Jesus that empower and uphold him, and not his own courage.
There are those who have chosen their hardship through unwise choices, there are those that find themselves in hardship due to circumstances around them, there are those that are called to hardship for the Kingdom of God.
Paul shares his insight into baring under hardship. His words display a man true to his calling and convictions. Though his call was difficult, he met it with tireless confidence, courage and willingness.
God promises in His word that he will never abandon me. Yet despite knowing that God is aware of my struggles, sometimes I still feel left with nothing but a broken heart, eyes that can't stop crying and a question within as to why he would allow me to go through pain.
In my times of hardship I will endeavour to take Paul's lead and turn to seek God to find out His will amongst the mess. My struggle is the transforming power that reveals God's strength. It is always God's purpose to bring you through your heartache and reveal more of Himself to you.
Mali, Syria and Greece – today I cry with you.
Belinda Croft lives in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia with husband Russell and son BJ, 12 years. They are expecting a fourth member of the family in late April. She has a passion for God, writing, creativity, missions and social justice.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html