By God's grace, I went to a wonderful Christian college thanks to financial aid and academic scholarship. Life on my college campus was affectionately called "the bubble" as many of us lived in our own little world oblivious to "the real world" and major news headlines.
Sure, I had some loneliness and let-downs in my life. I even lived in a third-world country where I saw intense suffering, but it didn't affect me directly. Overall life was good: I got the jobs I wanted, lived where I wanted, had friends, was financially secure, traveled frequently, and was in great health. Generally speaking, God seemed to answer my prayers by giving me my every desire. I had no real needs or wants.
Then chronic pain entered my life and burst my "bubble," taking away most of the things that made my life feel secure. I still do not have needs like most of the world (where almost 1 in 4 people live on less than $1.25 a day), but the last 3 1/2 years have been physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally hard for me and my family.
When I look around, it often feels like we are the only ones suffering so much, but the reality is quite the opposite. My husband is in retail management and was recently conducting interviews for a cashier. Each applicant had a "sad" story - the young mom who got pregnant out of wedlock and is trying to put her life back together, the dad working two jobs trying to make ends meet for his family, the wife whose husband left her and she must now provide for her family with only a high school degree to her name.
This is not uncommon in America. Nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty (the US Department of Health & Human Services defines poverty for a family of four to be an annual income less than $22,350). Being on the outside of the "bubble" is however uncommon to us. We are surrounded by families who own two cars, a nice home, send their children to expensive pre-school, with a dad who works 8-5pm while the wife stays home. Our suffering has made us aware of how much the American church caters to this upper-middle class mentality, often forgetting those who work swing shift, like my husband, which is actually very common in our blue-collar community.
It's easy to throw a pity-party when life is hard and others seem to walk through with such ease, but the Bible has told us life will be hard. So, why should we be surprised?
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13But most often I am surprised and sometimes even angry when suffering and trials come. However, life outside the "bubble" has been good for us. Our eyes have been (and are continuing to be) opened, and Christ has become sweeter to us. I feel like I can relate to others from different walks of life better now and I long for Heaven so much more.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who protested Hitler's persecution of the Jews, said "A Christian is someone who shares the sufferings of God in the world." . While we all suffer to different degrees according to God's sovereign plan, we can rest assured we are in good company not only with many around the world, but more importantly with Christ - the man of sorrows. And if God's perfect son suffered, why should we expect anything less (1 Peter 2:21)? Think it not strange, friends!