Explore My News,
Thoughts & Inspiration

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

How do you feel when someone you love is suffering? What about the suffering of persecuted believers? Or victims of war? It’s easy to feel helpless, like there’s nothing at all that we can do. But is that true? Is there really nothing we can do? 

As Christians, we can always pray. But prayer should not be our last line of defense when nothing else has worked, but rather our starting point. It is our first and primary tactical weapon:

“Prayer should never be the last option for a Christian. Prayer is the first choice. Prayer is war, initiated by those who worship and fear God. It is an offensive move, not the last option at the end of the road.” (Chinese Church Planter)

Put Yourself in Their Prison Cell (Hospital Room, Nursing Home, Bomb Shelter)

Hebrews 13:3: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

Don’t miss the intentionality of the first half of that verse! We are told to use our imagination and transport ourselves to this difficult place of suffering “as though” we were “with them”. 

And the second half of the verse reminds us how much we all have in common:

Have you ever been mistreated? Have you ever suffered severe physical pain? Have you lost a loved one? If you answered yes to these questions, then you (like me!) are qualified to intercede, according to Hebrews, for those who are suffering through these types of circumstances.

Interceding for an Imprisoned Apostle

The Apostle Paul concludes his epistle to the Colossians with a simple, earnest plea: 

“Remember my chains.” (Col. 4:18)

Remember. My. Chains.

Paul’s plea for prayer was probably written in this way as to avoid any possible problems should a prison guard have somehow intercepted this smuggled letter. If he would have expounded more on his situation, it could have easily sounded something like the following: 

“Pray for me often and intercede for me in my suffering, imprisonment, loneliness and pain.” 

Rejoicing, rejoicing… Weeping?

The following testimony from the late Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was tortured for Christ over 14 years in communist Romania (in the 1950s & 60s), should help to illustrate what is meant by both Romans 12:15 and Hebrews 13:3. 

The story, from Wurmbrand’s book “In God’s Underground”, picks up the morning after he was transferred to a horrid underground prison cell, and he began conversing with an old acquaintance while waiting for “breakfast”:

“Our friendship began while I was trying to eat my first meal at Craiova (prison). The vile, greasy smell of the soup preceded its arrival in the cell. Shreds of rotten cabbage and unwashed [intestines] floated in a scum. But to eat was a duty and I emptied my dish.

“How can you?” asked [my friend], whose stomach had revolted. 

“It was a Christian secret,” I said. “I think of St. Paul’s words ‘Rejoice with those that rejoice.’ Then I remember friends in America who are now eating grilled chicken, and I thank God with them as I take the first mouthful of soup. Next, I rejoice with friends in England who may be eating roast beef. And I get down another mouthful. So, by way of many friendly countries, I rejoice with those that rejoice—and stay alive.”

[My friend] and I had to share a bunk through the hot, stuffy nights. I was lucky not to be on the floor.

“You lie very still,” he said as others coughed and fidgeted around us. “What are you thinking? Does St. Paul help you now, too? 

I replied, “Yes, for now I rejoice with those in the West by thinking of their comfortable homes, and the books they have, the holidays they can plan, the music they hear, the love they have for their wives and children. And I remember the second part of the verse, from the epistle to the Romans, ‘And weep with those that weep.’ 

I am sure that in the West many thousands think of us and try to help us with their prayers.”

Two Questions For You, Dear Reader

First, what would you do in a situation like this? Would you be depressed, angry, hopeless, without Christ? Or would you be able to hope in Christ in the face of suffering and death? Don’t wait until the day your trial comes to begin crying out to the Lord! Today is the day of salvation…

Second, are you interceding for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ as the scriptures encourage us to do? They are in countless churches and communities scattered all over the nations, from the underground churches of China and North Korea, to the remote villages of India, and Indonesia, and the caves and bomb shelters of Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Call Me Unconvinced

At the end of his testimony, Wurmbrand stated: 

“I am sure that in the West many thousands think of us and try to help us with their prayers.” 

He seemed convinced that MANY were praying for him, but I have my doubts. How easy it is to forget or ignore needs that present themselves. On Facebook, for example, just a flick of the thumb will immediately “change the subject” and keep you scrolling. Surely many of the Christians in Wurmbrand’s generation were not as in tune with the Spirit as he had hoped.

However, your story and mine, and the testimonies of the persecuted and suffering church in our day, are still being recorded, literally as we speak! What kind of stories are we writing with our lives?

Imagination and Intercession

Hebrews 13:3 is not difficult to understand.

As you spend time interceding for the body of Christ (of which you are a part), transport yourself to one of these places: a bomb shelter in the Ukraine or some other wartorn country, a Chinese prison cell, or maybe a refugee camp far from home. Pray for our suffering brethren in those places as if you were there with them right now!

And may your prayers be biblical, hopeful prayers, reflecting the reality that Christ is Lord of all, and that all true believers have an inheritance in Him that will not (indeed, cannot!) fade. 

I recently read the following quote by a young Chinese pastor in a prison letter to his parents:

“He who has faith can lose nothing. He can turn hell into heaven; he can sleep peacefully in the midst of the storm; he can sing with thanksgiving from a prison cell; he can dance in his chains.”