Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Why Must People Suffer?

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"For the Lord will give you understanding in all things" (II Timothy 2:7).

With the impact of the terrorism of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath, our prayers continue to be extended to the victims and their families. There is great unity in prayer, because it brings us all together and when we are together, God is surely in the midst of us. With prayer, we are not separate individuals of different nationalities and different races, but are one in the Lord Jesus Christ's Holy Name.

The Holy Bible realistically tells us, Christians, that there are times of suffering during which we will have to endure. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ wisely advises us to pray, "Deliver us from evil." Events in our lifetime may leave an evil path of destruction and even pain in our lives. When this occurs we must pray to God to lead us and guide us through each and every day.

I would like to share with you some passages from the writings of The Late Bishop Youanis of Gharbia which specifically pertain to suffering:

The Blessings of Suffering
Suffering goes hand in hand with glory. When the New Testament mentions the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, it mentions with them the glories of these sufferings.

Likewise, the sufferings, which the believers go through, represent one side of life. The glories that follow represent the other side.

The glories of the Lord's Resurrection are associated with His sufferings. In His farewell Prayer to the Father, He said, "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You." (John 17:1) Here, the Lord points to the same hour, the hour of His Crucifixion!"

St. Paul said, "Jesus who for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Romans 2:9-10)

In the event of the Transfiguration, the three holy Disciples who accompanied the Lord Jesus Christ saw the glory of the Transfiguration. They also saw Moses and Elijah talking to the Lord Jesus Christ "and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem." (Luke 9:31)

No one before the Lord's Resurrection was able to fully realize the magnitude of the glory, which the three holy Disciples saw. But following the Holy Resurrection it was possible to realize the greatness of these matters.

In his Holy Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul explains the idea of the glories, which follow the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Holy Cross, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2) The expression "that for the joy that was set before Him" explains to us that the Lord Jesus was looking forward to the glories that followed the sufferings on the Holy Cross.

The Lord Jesus Christ wants all His children to follow in His Holy footsteps. When sufferings intensify around us, we should meditate on the great glories which we are assured will follow.

In his Holy Epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul relates between the suffering and the glory of the Lord Jesus. He states, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ every knee should bow, of those in Heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)

Also to the Romans, St. Paul said, "if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." (Romans 8:17) Again to the Ephesians he said about the Lord Jesus Christ, "and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the Heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6) For the believers, after His sufferings, "He raised us up together, and made us sit together in the Heavenly places."

In the Holy Book of Revelation, St. John describes an amazing vision. He said, "And as I looked, and behold, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain." St. John continues, "Now when He had taken the scroll, the Heavenly creatures, each having a harp, and they sang a new song, saying, 'You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.' Then they said with a loud voice: 'worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"

What is the hidden secret behind these great blessings? "For You were slain and have redeemed us." This is clear evidence to the sufferings of the Holy Cross. These are the glories that are veiled behind the sufferings.

St. Paul writes to the Romans and said, "and if children, then heirs of God and joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:17-18)

During this present time of suffering may we all contemplate on the writings of the late Bishop Youanis of Gharbia. Pray for the victims and their families suffering from the terrorism and those in battle to combat its far-reaching effects.

Let us pray that through these most difficult times we will all focus not on the evils of this transient life but on the glorified eternal life to come.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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