Hand-Me-Down Suffering

I was packing up some stuffed animals and used clothing yesterday—things that will get dropped off to be distributed among those who could use a little encouragement along the way.

The exercise reminded me of an incident that took place in Colombia where I served many years ago. Someone in Western Canada had taken it upon herself to collect a ton (literally) of used clothing which she then sent to us at the Bible Institute in Medellin. The huge crate arrived and we had an absolute ball going through all the stuff. Some was junk—a waste of time and money to sent. That junk included long underwear, mini-skirts, shoes without mates. I think there was even a ratty fur coat. But there was some good clothing in the crate.

We distributed what was useful and in good condition to our Bible School students, most of whom were very poor. One young man refused to take anything. He told me that he didn't wear "hand-me-downs." Pride was written all over his face so I took him aside. His perspective changed when I told him my story. You see, I grew up on hand-me-downs—long before recycling was "in." In fact I still wear hand-me-downs. There is no shame in it as far as I'm concerned.

I count my blessings, no matter where they come from, because there are so many in the world who have less.

When I read this morning's verses, this concept of sharing was fresh in my mind. Peter wrote: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings" —1 Peter 5:7-9.

Sharing clothing is like sharing suffering. Though the form that suffering takes is different for each individual, we all wear it in common. It touches each of us. We can't avoid it and must accept it as part of this world's reality.

But how we accept it is important. Suffering is a "hand-me-down." I have my own and this I share with others who pray and encourage along the way so that I resist the temptation to give in to the anxiety. Others share their sufferings with me. I put those on, taking them to the Lord in prayer, bearing a little of burden so that others will remain firm in the faith even in the midst of their circumstances.

The family shares even the bad stuff, and shares it with the realization that in the end, God will bless it and make us better for it.

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