Strength in These Times of Anguish in Nicaragua
by Rev. Alfredo Joiner Peña
2 Kings 7:1-20; 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
INTRODUCTION: I intend this message to bring light and calm to anguished hearts that abound everywhere today since we all have difficult times. Sometimes we do not know how to get through them because we do not have enough strength to face them. This reflection seeks to teach us how to maintain hope and find strength when difficult times come to our lives.
Anguishing experiences teach us how to live with confidence and strength. The Apostle Paul, while in Corinth, which was a city founded on a population base of foreign settlers, was aware of this by confessing: “We are troubled in everything, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NIV).
As an artisan who evangelized among marginalized and exploited peoples, Saint Paul knew firsthand the meaning of despair. He affirms he was concerned, perplexed, persecuted, and dejected, and continually facing death. However, he was convinced his strength was insufficient to confront his situation. His adversity gave a more significant opportunity for God to manifest His power and care for him and what God could do through him.
Because of the Judaizers who rejected his message about the Crucified and Risen Christ, he faced difficult times he thought would never survive. In the face of the pressure of his adversity, he came to the point of thinking that it was all over. Amid his feeling of helplessness, he said: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him, we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NIV).
Saint Paul’s anguished confession gives us the image of a person holding on to the last knot of the rope but has decided not to let go of anything because he relies on divine intervention to rescue him. This teaches us that we should not fear the magnitude of the difficult problems or moments in our lives. As long as the God of history is the strength of our lives, he will continue to deliver all who place their full trust in Him. The God of whom Saint Paul speaks continues to work and deliver our peoples no matter how great the magnitude of the difficulties in today’s time:
ILLUSTRATION: Last week I visited Bonanza, a municipality in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. My objective was to deliver food and provisions to meet the needs of communities affected by hurricanes ETA and Iota in that place. The Reverend Obando Castillo, Pastor of the Moravian congregation in the indigenous community of Alal, informed me of the misery they are currently living. In addition to the flooding situation that destroyed their crops, they cannot go hunting because armed settlers on their land do not allow them. When asked: how do you eat in these times? He responded: “Some help has arrived, but it was only distributed among the settlers, not the indigenous communities. So, we look for cassavas that sometimes we find half a sack and share it with families.” Thank God and everyone who trusted us, we have been able to provide them with food packages with 20 products for three communities that add up to 115 families.
The key to our strength in times of brokenness is our communion with God, who is greater than our problems. We must recognize that we depend every day on Him. What beautiful words of trust we have in Psalm 46:1 (NIV): “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble!” God is the best strength that unprotected human beings can have. It is merely necessary to let Him be the strength of your life, as well as the power of an entire people or nation.
Another key is that we are concerned about each other, confronting each adversity together. In this direction, Paul recognizes and tells the church in Corinth: “as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:11 NIV)
We should not devalue praying for each other. Paul says that the Corinthians’ prayers were a gift to him. In the same way, our prayers can bless others. We just need to be convinced that God has power over all conflicts, problems, or difficult times. He will act on our behalf if we put all our trust in Him.
CONCLUSION: Beloved brothers and sisters, our present time is difficult, and this could get worse as Ephesians 5:16b (NIV) says, “because the days are evil.” In order to keep our faith from failing and to stand firm, we must let God be our strength. We should not fear the magnitude of the problems because God is greater than our circumstances. We have to trust God is with us and gives us the strength to move forward. Amen.
SAVE THE DATE: Global Ministries will be transmitting a Webinar called “Living by Faith: Overcoming Hurricanes in Nicaragua and Honduras”, March 3rd, 2021 at 3PM ET. On the webinar, Global Ministries partners from both countries will share their assessment of damages as suffered by the passing of Hurricanes ETA and Iota. Also, they will share the way they have been working to provide for the needs of their communities, the present and the future of disaster relief in their countries. Please, register for the Webinar here.
We hope to see you all there.