“Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Reference: Isaiah 30:20-21 )
Beloved, as I sit down to right on this passage, a desires overcomes me to write from my personal experience. No, am not under persecution, at least not for my faith beliefs. I have been coping with illness for many years, and just recently had a new diagnosis added. It has been a long and trying day, and I am in pain. I had thought maybe I should wait a day and write on this passage tomorrow, but the beginning of these verses calls to me; “Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction . . . “ The writer of Isaiah uses metaphors of bread and water several times in the book of Isaiah, the most memorable to me being Isaiah chapter 55 verses 1 & 2. [Go look it us if you so desire] In that passage bread and water is desired, but here the bread and water presented to the reader is to one’s determent and not to support healthy living. But even so, when there is suffering and affliction the Lord is present with you and guides you through the difficult times.
Whether it be difficult choices, suffering and persecution at the hands of another, or (as in my case) ill-health and problems of the body – the Lord is with us. God does not always take away the suffering, as the historic Anabaptists found. In fact cleaving to God sometimes results in the suffering and persecution. I am thankful to God that I am free to practice my faith beliefs without fear. (I hope it is so for you too beloved.) Our faith can be a comfort and support at all times; and when it may seem to be the better choice to let go of our faith or give in on some points in the face of persecution, I tell you beloved it is a thousand times worse to abandon even the smallest tenet of faith than it is to hold firm and suffer the consequences.
Now, this does not mean our faith should not grow or mature, changing and evolving as new wisdom is revealed to us. It may be just as bad to hang onto a faith that is not in line with God’s precepts as it would be to give up one’s correctly grounded faith. One of the historic Anabaptist, Maerten van der Straten, encouraged his wife writing, “But the Almighty King is the true fountain, who, as Jeremiah says, with His learned tongue comforts the weary soul,
and, according to the words of the prophet, in time of need gives bread, and in thirst water.” This stands in contrast to the words of Isaiah who said “Though the Lord may give you . . . adversity and . . . affliction.” We hold in tension, beloved, that while difficulties may come because of held beliefs, support and comfort also comes because of held beliefs.
But I have rambled away from my starting point – that suffering comes in many forms. I have been asked several times if I have not prayed to God to be healed; and what conclusions have I come to since I have not been healed. And my answer is this beloved; there are many who suffer without relief. And in my suffering I can identify with their pain, and I can encourage them to call on God to be with them and support them, knowing from my own experience that thought one may suffer it does not mean that God has abandoned us. God is with us, guiding us and strengthening us so that we may stand firm in our faith, continuing a legacy that spans from the past and carries forward to the future. May you stand firm in that tradition beloved. Selah!