(2 Tim. 3:12)
We often wonder where God’s justice is, since human justice is clearly missing in the world. The reason for this is that we often see criminals and impostors, evildoers of every kind, seemingly living a peaceful and easy life and showered with endless attention and respect. On the other hand, we find honest and poor people fighting affliction upon affliction, suffering and leading a hard life, with just about everyone adding to their misery.
In everyone’s life there comes a time when our strength fails us and when it is hard to go on living an honest life. One feels tempted to give up on honesty and honor and to take the wide and comfortable road to wealth, power and success.
Our good Apostle Paul gives everyone who has been burdened with honesty the following advice: our Lord suffered, I myself have suffered and am suffering, and you, too – will suffer, for “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer prosecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
Many of us have the wrong idea about the life of a true Christian. We sometimes hear thoughts such as this: “I have such bad luck, my life is a series of failures, I think I’ll get baptized and pray to God and perhaps things will turn out in my favor.” But our long-suffering Lord is not the answer to these expectations. For it is only when one approaches the Lord from the heart, that the real trials and tribulations begin. In those places which are fully under the rule of the Evil One, in a gambling house for example, there is perfect order and a sense of decency and comfort. Should someone let out a cry of despair, he is quickly thrown out and order is restored. But once the demon is spat on and rejected, he will be there to try to make one’s life miserable until the end of one’s days, and even beyond. Did not the Lord say, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:18-20).
“My son, if you desire to serve the Lord, prepare your soul for temptation” (Book of Sirach, 2:1).
This is one of the many answers as to why the righteous suffer (if, indeed, there is such a person or if it is at all possible for a righteous person even to exist). They suffer in order to be tried and tested, purified and that their faith become stronger. That is the reason why this sinful world cannot stand anyone who does not fit in. In short: suffering is the future of an honest person. He has made a choice between God and the devil, and he has chosen suffering. And as the holy Apostle Peter puts it, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Pet. 4:12-13). “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter (1 Pet. 4:15-16).
“But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 4:13).
And going back to what I said to you before, one looks at the godless tyrants of today practically mowing down the earth, destroying and poisoning it, sending millions of innocent souls to the depths of despair, and one cannot help but think that there is no end to their evil deeds and that no one will ever be able to stop them. And one is immediately tempted into giving up the honest and hard life and following the majority, consequently selling one’s soul to the devil.
Ever since the world began, all the holy and righteous people of God were plagued by the same thoughts and dilemmas. People are usually distracted, not unlike little children who become so engrossed in their play that they forget about the whole world. In the same way sinners, in their world of darkness, forget that there is Someone more powerful up there, Someone who watches their every step and move. And when others see them in their passing glory, they may be tempted to say, in the words of the Psalmist, “And they say, ‘How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?’ Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocence. For all day I have been plagued and chastened every morning” (Ps. 73:11-14). “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me” (Ps. 73:16).
For as long as the wise King David racked his human brains and measured things with human measure, he did not come across any answers. “Thus my heart was grieved and I was vexed in my mind,” he admits. “I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You (Ps. 73:21-22). But when he directed his thoughts to God, when he tried to see things and events with God’s eyes, then everything became clear to him: “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; there I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, so Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image” (Ps. 73:17-30).
There is the answer to our question. We cannot the future of any one of us, but God has permitted us to see and know should suffice for us to bear our troubles meekly and with joy. In the long run, when we compare the burdens and yokes on the backs of sinners, the yoke of the Lord is easy and His burden is light (Mt. 11:30).
“I have seen the wicked in great power and spreading himself like a native green tree, yet he passed away and behold, he was no more (Ps. 37:35-36 (Eccl. 8:12-13).
“God is slow to deal justice,” says the old proverb, but to many He is not, and deals His justice right here and now, before our very eyes. “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner (Prov. 11:31). Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him. But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God (Eccl.8:12-13).
But why doesn’t God, as we would like Him to do, smite an evildoer instantly why doesn’t He strike him across the mouth the minute blasphemous words come out of his mouth? “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). In the end, God’s righteous, unsparing, terrible and final judgment awaits us all. If all accounts are settled here on earth, what would there be for God to do? Make no mistake, if those who suffer tremble at the thought of God’s judgment, “what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:17-19).