by Katherine Britton
“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…”– 1 Peter 3:15
Christians give really good hugs during trials and tragedy. As my own family has experienced recently, the body of Christ has long arms to embrace those in need, easing the burdens of bad times. The church at work offers silent – and strong – evidence of grace when we pick each other up off the ground.
Now, imagine for a moment that your community didn’t provide any support during a trial. Imagine that instead of offering encouraging words and providing meals or other support after a tragedy, the whole community pulled away. Imagine if they acted like you were a disease they didn’t want to catch while you shouldered the burden alone. And not only that -- they believed that your problems were your own fault, pure and simple.
That’s karma at work. And it’s a lonely road.
A missionary couple recently visited our church before heading to London, where they planned settle in an immigrant community that’s mostly Hindu. The wife expressed her desire to see people set free from the bonds of karma. That caught my interest. I’d slipped into viewing karma through an Americanized lens, as a pseudo-Christian philosophy of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7). Faithfulness and selfishness often have their rewards in this life, after all, and good deeds are often repaid with a smile and expression of gratitude if nothing else. Karma may not be the full picture, but it seemed like an innocuous truism to me.
The missionary went on to describe the ugly side of karma, in which the community pulls away from its members who are suffering. Lose a job? It’s a karmic effect – you must have cheated your employer or at least talked badly about him. Did you – heaven forbid – lose a child? Somehow, that’s your fault too, as the universe balances out some evil you’ve done. If such horrible things are somehow your fault, it would also make sense for people to pull away. That’s the bond of karma.
Christians rely on the promise that “all things work for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28). We fight to believe that, while “no discipline seems pleasant at the time… later on it produces a harvest of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Like Job, we may never know the reason for our earthly suffering. But we know that, because of grace, suffering is not a quid-pro-quo retaliation for our sins. Even our suffering has been redeemed by God’s grace through Christ’s supreme act of love.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Unlike the Hindu system of karma and its effects, we know even our pain is used by a loving God. Because of that, we have real hope for tomorrow – because our future doesn’t depend on us! No matter what trials we experience, we can rest in the knowledge that even when we are not good, God is. That’s mercy, and that gives hope. Are you ready to give an answer for that hope?
Is it possible to suffer daily and also live a thriving life? Yes! Our new podcast, Thriving with Chronic Illness, empowers listeners to navigate the challenges, questions, and pains of life with chronic illness while learning how to thrive. Click on the banner below to listen now!