Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. – Hebrews 10:32-35
Here is a word of encouragement for those who grieve and for those who seek to comfort them.
Perhaps you or someone you know has faced personal tragedy recently. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, and the pain of the loss is so great, so overwhelming, that you’re ready to quit. Perhaps you’re feeling helpless and burdened as you watch your brother or sister in Christ walk the painful road of suffering.
Prolonged and intense suffering often causes us to question our faith and commitment. But the author of Hebrews encourages us to remain steadfast as we call to mind our endurance through former hardship. “Recall,” he says, “the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.” And in light of this recollection, we must also avoid the temptation to “throw away … confidence,” knowing that our perseverance will be greatly rewarded. The longer we go on in the Christian life, the more trials we come through by God’s grace, and the more we can look back on them and think, “If I persevered through that, then I can keep going through this.”
You may be thinking, though, “This is too much—perseverance is beyond me this time.” If so, know this: it is in moments of great weakness that the Spirit strengthens us and helps us (Romans 8:26-28). Even when we do not know what to pray for or how to endure, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and enables us to do the will of God (v 26).
The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us, as members of God’s family, united in Christ, to stand side by side and partner with those who are suffering. Indeed, we are called to actively extend sympathy as we identify with our brothers and sisters in their affliction. Such partnership may come at a cost; early believers even endured the “plundering of … property” as a result of their compassion for those already imprisoned. Yet we must not let its costliness deter us.
In sorrow and in sympathy, we persevere because the Lord stands by us to strengthen and uphold us with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). As you face life’s toils and troubles, don’t throw away your confidence or shrink back into the shadows. Fix your eyes, and encourage those around you to fix their eyes, on a “better possession and an abiding one”: the glory of eternity with Christ, who has walked the path of suffering before us and now beckons us on, on toward home.